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    September 8, 2021 (Vancouver, BC) – The BC First Nations Forestry Council (the ‘Forestry Council’) has submitted an open letter to Premier Horgan expressing serious concerns with the engagement process used by the Ministry of Forest Lands, Natural Resources Operations & Rural Development (MFLNRORD) to involve First Nations in significant changes to forest policy.

    20 BC First Nations and Indigenous Forestry Organizations have signed in support of the letter, calling for a meaningful consultation to ensure that First Nations’ rights, priorities and values are incorporated into the modernization of forest policy in BC.

    In July 2021, FLNRORD sought input from Nations on proposed policy amendments through a letter sent to some Nations, with a final deadline for input of September 3, 2021.

    “The timeline for consultation is disrespectful, compressed and expedited, and does not allow for meaningful and informed consultation,” tells Chief Bill Williams, President of the First Nations Forestry Council.

    “Under the Declaration Act, changes being proposed to forest legislation, policies and regulations require the prior and informed consent of Nations; at the outset, not after the fact,” he adds.

    Dr. Charlene Higgins, CEO of the Forestry Council adds: “How are Nations supposed to participate in an informed and meaningful manner if they don’t have the resources or technical capacity required to understand the implications of the proposed changes and submit answers to 90+ questions into a “consultation portal”?”

    “A number of Nations have informed us they have not received a letter from the ministry regarding these proposed changes,” she adds.

    “The solution is easy,” says Higgins. “The Forestry Council is calling on the Province for an extension until the end of the year, to allow the time needed to co-draft a revised version of the Intentions Paper that reflects First Nations rights and priorities in the modernization of forest policy in BC, and for us to do the technical work with the Nations to assist them in better understanding impacts and implications of the proposed policy changes.”

    To read the full letter, click here.


    For additional info, contact:

    Michael Robach, Communications Manager, michael@forestrycouncil.ca, +1 778-939-4184
    BC First Nations Forestry Council

  • August 4, 2021 (Victoria, BC) The Ministry of Forest Lands, Natural Resources Operations and Rural Development (MFLNRORD) has sent a letter to all BC First Nations outlining a consultation process regarding modernization of forest policy in BC, based on the Intentions Paper that was developed internally with no input or consultation with First Nations.

    • The Forestry Council was not involved in the development of the content of the letter.
    • Several references to the Forestry Council are misleading and misrepresent input received in engagement sessions we have held with First Nations. The proposed changes do not reflect First Nations priorities outlined in the BC First Nations Forest Strategy (the ‘Forest Strategy’).

    “The Forestry Council is concerned with how the Province is relating its Intentions Paper to the BC First Nations Forest Strategy, when they have not endorsed or committed to implementing it,” tells Dr. Charlene Higgins, CEO of the Forestry Council. “The Intentions Paper makes no reference to the Forest Strategy.”

    Chief Bill Williams, President of the Forestry Council, states: “The consultation process and timeline outlined in the letter is disingenuous – we are in a State of Emergency due to wildfires and the Province is carrying on with business as usual, trying to ram through major changes to forest policies based on provincial expediency and priorities.”

    Higgins adds that “The Forestry Council does not support the top-down approach the Province is using to engage with BC First Nations on significant and technical changes to forest policies that were developed internally by the Ministry with no input from the Forestry Council or First Nations.”

    “We are calling on the Province for an extension until the end of the year, so that we can do the work with the Nations to fully understand the impact and implications of the proposed changes, and ensure that First Nations priorities are incorporated in the modernization of forest policy in BC.” 

    “The Forestry Council recognizes the need for the Province to work government-to-government (G2G) with Nations. But while some Nations have funded G2G tables, most Nations don’t,” she adds.

    “How are Nations supposed to participate in an informed and meaningful manner, in ways that reflect prior and informed consent, when they don’t have the capacity or resources to do the policy analysis to understand the ramifications of the proposed changes on their involvement in decision-making and their forest tenures?” asks Higgins.

    The Forestry Council calls on the Nations to reject the process of engagement until such time that we can work together to do the technical policy analysis needed to support the Nations in their understanding of the proposed changes and informed participation regarding changes to forest policies to advance First Nations decision-making, priorities and rights, and involvement as full partners in the forest sector. The Forestry Council should, and can, as part of its mandate, play a role to do this analysis for the Nations.

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    Download Press Release as PDF.

    For additional info, contact:

    BC First Nations Forestry Council
    Michael Robach
    Communications Manager
    michael@forestrycouncil.ca
    +1 604-971-3448

     

  • 28 Jun 2021 by Charlene Higgins

    Under the current provincial revenue sharing program (Forest Consultation and Revenue Sharing Agreements) First Nations communities receive a share of stumpage the Province collects from harvesting activities on their territories.

    Since the start of this program in 2013, the Province has shared less than 6% of stumpage collected with First Nations.

    Taking into consideration the total contribution of the Forest Industry to the GDP of approximately $13 billion/year over the last 4 years, the Province has shared less than 0.5%/year of the GDP with First Nations.

    The current forest revenue sharing model with First Nations must change from sharing less that 6% to 50% of stumpage revenues collected.

    “A Path Forward”

    In 2018, as part of their commitment to advance the implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and reconciliation, the Ministry Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development (FLNRORD) committed to developing a new BC & First Nations Forest Strategy (the ‘Forest Strategy’) in collaboration with BC First Nations. In 2019, this Forest Strategy was released, informed by almost a decade of engagement with BC First Nations, and developed in collaboration with the Province. It provides a framework for how BC can meet their commitments for the alignment of forestry laws with UNDRIP informed by First Nations priorities. However, the Government of BC is not living up to their commitment to First Nations. They have not endorsed or committed to the implementation of the Forest Strategy.

    The Intention Paper released by the government June 3, 2021 sets out a vision to modernize BC Forest policy, but it was developed with no input from First Nations and does not make any mention of the Forest Strategy.

    The Intention Paper released by the government June 3, 2021 sets out a vision to modernize BC Forest policy, but it was developed with no input from First Nations and does not make any mention of the Forest Strategy. The Intention Paper identifies that to support reconciliation there is a need to “increase economic and land management opportunities for Indigenous Peoples” but does not identify actions to support this goal. The Forest Strategy has six main goals that identify concrete steps the BC Government can take to advance reconciliation and support the implementation of UNDRIP. This includes shared decision making, a collaborative approach to forest governance and stewardship, and access to a meaningful share of forest revenues derived from forest lands and resources in Indigenous territories.

    In 2019, the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act (DRIPA) was passed and became law in BC. Through the Declaration Act BC has committed to aligning its laws with UNDRIP. The Forest Strategy is directly linked to the articles of UNDRIP and provides a framework for the BC government to implement UNDRIP and the Declaration Act.

    The Forest Strategy has been fully endorsed by the First Nations leadership in BC and supported by the BC First Nations Leadership Council through resolutions passed by the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, the First Nations Summit and the BC Assembly of First Nations.

     

    “It's time for action”

    What should economic reconciliation look like? Objectives outlined under Goal 2 of the Forest Strategy to support economic reconciliation include:

    • The current forest revenue sharing model must change to increase the share of revenues with First Nations,
    • First Nations should share in the economic benefits derived for forest lands and resources on their territories, and
    • Forest revenue sharing will support First Nations governance capacity, and a modernized government-to-government relationship.

    With economic inclusion and the meaningful sharing of forest revenues and resources through tenure reform and other tools, First Nations have the potential to unlock billions of dollars and be partners in building strong, diverse inclusive forest sector in BC.

    “Economic reconciliation must establish the foundation for building an inclusive economy- this is the journey from invisibility to inclusivity of Indigenous PeoplesEconomic reconciliation is the process of creating and facilitating meaningful partnerships and mutually beneficial opportunities to support Indigenous economic prosperity and inclusion” (Indigenomics, Taking a Seat at the Economic Table, Carol Anne Hilton, 2021).

    So, what has to change in BC? A lot

    The BC Government must live up to their commitment and endorse and implement the Forest Strategy which outlines a framework to support the implementation of UNDRIP and advance reconciliation. The Forest Strategy should be used to guide and inform work under the Intention Paper to modernize forest policy in BC and forest sector transition with First Nations as full partners. 

    It’s time for the BC government to put words into actions to advance economic reconciliation and Indigenous prosperity and inclusion in the forest sector. Meaningful sharing of forest revenues with all First Nations, not just some, supports Indigenomics, and economic reconciliation with First Nations as full partners in the forest sector.

    Time for Talk is Over.  #ItsTimeForAction

  • June 2, 2021 (Vancouver, BC) – The BC First Nations Forestry Council (the “the Forestry Council”) acknowledges the release of the Province of British Columbia’s Intentions Paper, “Modernizing Forest Policy in BC.”

    As part of this work, the Forestry Council is hopeful the Province will act on the commitment made to the Nations in 2018 to implement the BC First Nations Forest Strategy, which provides a framework to increase First Nations participation in the forest sector.

    In 2019 the Forest Strategy received endorsement of First Nations leadership in BC at meetings of the BC Assembly of First Nations, the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, and the First Nations Summit.

    The Forestry Council recognizes the significant changes to climate that are directly impacting forests. With knowledge that goes back generations, First Nations are key in addressing the economic, social, and environmental challenges of managing forest lands and resources for a sustainable forest today and in the future.

    • The Forestry Council is pleased to see that the Province is recognizing that First Nations have wanted greater access to forest tenure for over a decade and identified tenure reallocation, through the use of apportionment and other tools, as part of modernizing forest policy. Increased First Nations participation in the forest sector through tenure reform is a key goal outlined in the Forest Strategy (Goal 4).
    • We are also pleased to see the acknowledgment that First Nations want a greater role in the forest sector and in forest management. This was confirmed in our engagements with First Nations to build the Forest Strategy and the focus of Goals 1 and 5.

    The Forestry Council is, however, disappointed that the Province does not mention or commit to implementation of all the goals set by Nations within the Forest Strategy.

    The purpose of the Forest Strategy is to modernize G2G relationships between the Province and First Nations, and provides the framework to guide meaningful change in BC forestry with First Nations as full partners.

    The Province has presented an opportunity to come together again in collaboration to implement the six goals of the Forest Strategy as part of the modernization of forest policy in BC. The meaningful engagement of First Nations in the development of management tools and a vision for globally competitive, diverse, and a sustainable forest sector for generations is work we can, and should, undertake together. We look forward to working with the Province to engage with First Nations in the modernization of forest policy and legislations in BC.

     

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    For additional info, contact:

    BC First Nations Forestry Council
    Michael Robach
    Communications Manager
    michael@forestrycouncil.ca
    +1 +1 604-971-3448 (ext. 4635)

     

     

    ABOUT THE #ITSTIME CAMPAIGN

    Learn more: https://www.forestrycouncil.ca/cpages/its-time-forestry 

    ABOUT THE CONFERENCE

    The First Nations Forestry Council will be hosting the 2nd Annual BC First Nations Forestry Conference virtually between June 16-18, 2021.

    The 2021 event will bring together BC First Nations to share information related to forestry workforce opportunities, and provide a space for communities to share knowledge about forest stewardship and management practices in all regions of British Columbia.

    The theme for this year’s event is “BC First Nations as Full Partners”. As an organization, the Forestry Council strives to support and advocate for the role BC First Nations should play as the rightful owners of forest lands and resources, including access to an equitable share of the benefits derived from forestry activities within their traditional territories. That is why this year, the conference will also provide the opportunity to bring together industry, Government, and Nations to discuss changes to forest policy and legislation, tenure, and workforce partnerships.

    For more information, or to sign on as a Sponsor, please e-mail: info@forestrycouncil.ca.

  • June 1, 2021 (Vancouver, BC) – To honor National Indigenous History Month, the BC First Nations Forestry Council is launching an awareness campaign to bring into focus the BC First Nations Forest Strategy (the ‘Forest Strategy’) and the six goals informed by direct input of First Nations for over a decade.

    “BC First Nations have endorsed the six goals identified within the Forest Strategy,” tells Charlene Higgins, CEO of the BC First Nations Forestry Council. “It’s time for Government and Industry to acknowledge and implement them; it’s time for us to move forward.”

    The Forest Strategy reflects the principles of UNDRIP and was developed to support government-to-government relationships between the Province and First Nations to increase the role Indigenous Nations play in the governance and stewardship of forest lands and resources.

    “The Forest Strategy and Implementation Plan were released in 2019, but the Province still hasn’t fulfilled their commitment to action or endorsing either,” says Higgins.

    “We must do better if we are to revitalize the BC forest sector with First Nations as full partners.”

    Throughout the month of June, the Forestry Council is calling on industry, community, and Government to help amplify the goals of the Forest Strategy by taking action and sharing goals from the Forest Strategy online.

    Visit this link to learn more about each goal, their link to UNDRIP, and how you can participate in the #ItsTime campaign during the month of June.



    The Forestry Council will also be marking this year’s National Indigenous History Month with the 2nd Annual BC First Nations Forestry Conference, taking place virtually between June 16-18, 2021.

    “To truly implement UNDRIP, Nations must play a larger role in decisions pertaining to the management and stewardship of forest lands and resources,” tells Higgins. “The Conference will highlight good examples, and changes needed to make First Nations full partners in the forest sector.” 

    You can view the full conference program at this link.

    “Reconciliation is hard work” tells Higgins. “We look forward to continuing this work with industry and the provincial government to put words into action in changes to forest policies, legislation and regulations to increase the role Nations play in the governance and stewardship of forest lands and resources.”

     

    - END -

     

    For additional info, contact:

    BC First Nations Forestry Council
    Michael Robach
    Communications Manager
    michael@forestrycouncil.ca
    +1 +1 604-971-3448 (ext. 4635)

  • May 12, 2021 (Vancouver, BC) – The BC First Nations Forestry Council is announcing the keynote speaker, Chief Councilor Robert Dennis, from Huu-ay-aht First Nation, for the 2021 BC First Nations Forestry Conference who will speak about the “Pathway to First Nations as Full Partners in Forestry.”

    The event will also feature representatives of the First Nations Leadership Council – Regional Chief Terry Teegee (BCAFN), Chief Judy Wilson (UBCIC), and Robert Phillips (FNS) – who will together take part on a panel on the BC First Nations Forest Strategy and the implementation of UNDRIP.

    “This year’s Conference program is focused on bringing BC First Nations together to discuss their involvement in forestry,” tells Charlene Higgins, CEO of the BC First Nations Forestry Council.

    “Speakers from all over the province will bring their lens to discuss the role First Nations should play in the governance and stewardship of forest lands and resources as full partners,” she adds.

    Sessions will cover topics related to the Timber Supply Review Process, First Nations Woodland Licenses, and the importance of strong industry partnerships with First Nations.

    This year’s event will also provide the space for discussions on Indigenous involvement in the workforce, including an award ceremony that will recognize and celebrate the achievements of the Indigenous Forestry Scholarship Program (IFSP).

    “This gathering offers up the unique opportunity to present exciting work ahead for the implementation of the BC First Nations Forestry Workforce Strategy (the ‘Workforce Strategy’),” tells Karen Sorensen, Workforce Development Manager for the Forestry Council.

    “The success of the Workforce Strategy is based on strong partnerships, and we look forward to celebrating the successes of Indigenous talent already entering into the workforce.”

    On the Wednesday before the conference, participants are also invited to attend engagement sessions to help inform a new Indigenous Workforce in Forestry initiative currently being developed.

    “To truly implement UNDRIP, Nations must play a larger role in decisions pertaining to the management and stewardship of forest lands and resources,” tells Higgins. “The Conference will highlight good examples, and changes needed to make First Nations full partners in the forest sector.”

    The full program and speakers list is available, along with registration information, at https://pheedloop.com/FNForestryConference/site/schedule/.

     

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    ABOUT THE CONFERENCE

    The First Nations Forestry Council will be hosting the 2nd Annual BC First Nations Forestry Conference virtually between June 16-18, 2021.

    The 2021 event will bring together BC First Nations to share information related to forestry workforce opportunities, and provide a space for communities to share knowledge about forest stewardship and management practices in all regions of British Columbia.

    The theme for this year’s event is “BC First Nations as Full Partners”. As an organization, the Forestry Council strives to support and advocate for the role BC First Nations should play as the rightful owners of forest lands and resources, including access to an equitable share of the benefits derived from forestry activities within their traditional territories. That is why this year, the conference will also provide the opportunity to bring together industry, Government, and Nations to discuss changes to forest policy and legislation, tenure, and workforce partnerships.

    For more information, or to sign on as a Sponsor, please e-mail: info@forestrycouncil.ca.

     

    THANK YOU TO OUR 2021 SILVER SPONSORS

     

     

    For additional info, contact:

    BC First Nations Forestry Council
    Michael Robach
    Communications Manager
    michael@forestrycouncil.ca
    +1 +1 604-971-3448 (ext. 4635)

     

  • (April 20, 2021) VANCOUVER, BC – The First Nations Forestry Council has announced three new partnerships with Mosaic Forest Management, Tolko Industries Ltd. (Tolko), and Western Forest Products Inc. through the Indigenous Forestry Scholarship Program (IFSP).

    Since the launch of the Indigenous Forestry Scholarship Program in 2012, 80 Indigenous students have received full scholarships to attend a forestry program of their choice, along with a paid work placement with participating program partners.

    The program, with support from these new partners, will now offer additional full scholarships for BC First Nations entering into a career in BC forestry.

    “The growth of the Indigenous Forestry Scholarship Program is creating meaningful opportunities for First Nations to enter into all areas of the BC Forest Sector”, tells Charlene Higgins, CEO of the BC First Nations Forestry Council.

    “Our program partners play an integral role in the success of our Indigenous recipients, providing the resources and work opportunities necessary to grow Indigenous involvement in all areas of forestry in BC,” she adds.

    Scholarship recipients must be enrolled in full-time forestry-related studies. Candidates are then required to participate in summer work that includes periods of one-on-one career mentorship with program partners.

    For additional information on eligibility and how to apply, visit www.forestrycouncil.ca/cpages/ifsp.

    Quotes:

    Louise Bender, Director of People, Mosaic Forest Management:

    “We are proud to partner with the First Nations Forestry Council to provide support to Indigenous forestry students. As a Progressive Aboriginal Relations silver-level certified company, Mosaic’s key objective is to increase representation and opportunities for Indigenous persons in the workplace. The Indigenous Forestry Scholarship Program compliments Mosaic’s broader scholarships and training programs and commitment to our First Nations partners.”

    Bob Fleet, Vice-President, Environment and Forestry, Tolko Industries Ltd. (Tolko):

    “Helping Indigenous youth secure an education and career in the forest sector is important to First Nations, the province, and Tolko. We are looking forward to students joining our team and we are pleased to partner with the First Nations Forestry Council to help advance this important program.”

    Jennifer Foster, Senior Vice President, Human Resources and Corporate Affairs, Western Forest Products Inc.:

    “We are pleased to partner with the First Nations Forestry Council in support of the Indigenous Forestry Scholarship Program. This scholarship award supports our broader goal of fostering diversity in our workplace, including through Indigenous employment, as we seek to benefit from a wide range of people and perspectives. Through this well-established program, we look forward to supporting another student launch their career in forestry and providing a rewarding work experience that is mutually-beneficial.”

     

    -   END       -

     

    For media enquiries:
     

    Michael Robach

    Communications Manager

    BC First Nations Forestry Council

    michael@forestrycouncil.ca

    +1 604-971-3448

     

  • (April 13, 2021) Vancouver, BC – The First Nations Forestry Council (the ‘Forestry Council’) has officially opened registration for the 2nd Annual BC First Nations Forestry Conference, which will be held virtually between June 16-18, 2021.

    The 2021 Conference program will include a variety of topics related to forestry workforce opportunities and partnerships, as well as panel discussions and presentations on the timber supply review process, First Nations Woodland Licences, and stewardship practices in all regions of British Columbia.

    “We must continue the important work of advocating for the increased role Nations have to play as full partners in forestry,” says Chief Bill Williams, President of the Forestry Council.

    “That is why this year, we have chosen to frame the event within the theme of BC First Nations as Full Partners.”

    The Forestry Council strives to support and advocate for the role Nations should play as the rightful owners of forest lands and resources, including access to an equitable share of the benefits derived from forestry activities within their traditional territories.

    “This event provides the space and opportunity to bring Nations, industry, and Government together to discuss changes needed to increase First Nations involvement in timber supply reviews, increase access to tenure, and development of partnerships to increase First Nations’ involvement in the workforce,” tells Charlene Higgins, CEO of the Forestry Council.

    “Through the 2021 BC First Nations Forestry Conference, we look forward to highlighting First Nations in the BC forest sector, paving a new way forward with First Nations as Full Partners.”

    Find out more and register for this year’s event by visiting this link.

     

    -   END     -

     

    For media enquiries, please contact:

    Michael Robach
    Communications Manager
    First Nations Forestry Council
    michael@forestrycouncil.ca

  • February 16, 2021 (Vancouver, BC) The Forest Stewardship Council of Canada (FSC) has announced their full support of the BC First Nations Forest Strategy (the ‘Forest Strategy’).

    “We applaud FSC for leading by example as the first forest certification system in British Columbia to align themselves with a Forest Strategy informed directly by Nations for over a decade,” tells Chief Bill Williams, President and Chair of the Board for the BC First Nations Forestry Council (the ‘Forestry Council’).

    Released in May 2019, the Forest Strategy was developed in collaboration with the BC Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations & Rural Development (MFLNRORD) to advance reconciliation and support the implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). It was fully endorsed by BC First Nations through resolutions passed by the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, the First Nations Summit, and the BC Assembly of First Nations in 2019. 

    “FSC Canada looks forward to accompanying the BC First Nations Forestry Council in the successful implementation of the Forest Strategy, along with an effective commitment from the Government of British Columbia to uphold UNDRIP,” says David Flood, Chair of the Board for FSC.

    François Dufresne, President and CEO of FSC Canada adds: “The coming into effect of the new FSC standard in 2020 in Canada strengthens the value proposition for First Nations to lead governance and stewardship. FSC is an international certification scheme focused on achieving sustainable forests for all forever.”

    The Forest Strategy outlines six strategic goals and provides a framework to implement UNDRIP and modernize government-to-government relationships through a collaborative approach to forest governance, stewardship, and joint decision-making.

    “The Forest Strategy recognizes Nations as Governments and rights holders,” says Chief Williams. “The Forest Strategy implements UNDRIP, shared decision-making, and supports partnerships with industry, building a strong, inclusive way forward with First Nations as full partners.”

    “Reconciliation is hard work, and it takes all of us” tells Charlene Higgins, CEO of the Forestry Council. “This includes the need for the BC Government to live up to their commitment to the Nations, put words into action, and fully endorse the Forest Strategy.”

    “We look forward to continuing our work with the Nations, the new BC Government, and partners like FSC to increase the role BC First Nations should play in the governance and stewardship of forest lands and resources on their territories.”

     

    -  END    -

     

    For additional information:

    Michael Robach
    Communications Manager
    BC First Nations Forestry Council
    michael@forestrycouncil.ca
    +1 604-971-3448

  • 06 Jan 2021 by Charlene Higgins

    Dear Members,

    2020 has been an unprecedented year. We are grateful to you for supporting us, for sharing in your knowledge and perspectives, and for guiding our vision to assist all Nations in creating a healthy forest sector that continues to sustain the cultural, spiritual, economic, and social lives of BC’s First Nations.

    In spite of the challenges this year we are proud to have accomplished a lot together, continuing the important work of advocating for meaningful and consistent involvement of First Nations as full partners in a revitalized forest sector. We adapted to new ways of ensuring your voices could be heard through virtual meetings and online forms, resulting in the release of a recommendations report that outlines Indigenous values and principles for defining forest stewardship objectives. This report sets a path for much needed, continued engagement and work on forest policy and legislative reform in the new year.

    Our workforce initiatives gained great success this year with the launch of our first virtual career fair, #ForestryConnect2020, which attracted nearly 200 Indigenous students from across the province, engaging on forestry work opportunities and educational programs. The Indigenous Forestry Scholarship Program (IFSP) also welcomed a new Program Partner, BC Wildfire Service, which enabled us to increase scholarship awards to a total of 25 Indigenous students from 23 communities this year.

    The release of our 2017-2020 Activities Report marked another important milestone: the revitalization of our First Nations Membership Program. Membership allows us to build a meaningful relationship that supports, informs, and involves you in provincial initiatives, including forest policy and legislative changes the province continues to advance. To all of the members who have reaffirmed their support for our work this year: thank you.

    Over a year ago, the BC government committed to the implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). The articles of UNDRIP link directly to the six goals of the BC & First Nations Forest Strategy. However, the province still has not followed through on their commitment of endorsing it. It is critical that we continue to put pressure on the new provincial government to endorse the Forest Strategy.

    The Forestry Council is here to listen, support, and advocate for the role Nations should play in the governance and stewardship of forest lands and resources. As we welcome the new year, I look forward to continuing our work together, advocating for the changes needed to forest policies, legislation, and practices to ensure BC First Nations are full partners in the transformation of the forest sector. Together we can make change happen.

    We wish you a healthy and happy holiday season.

    Respectfully,

    Charlene Higgins, MSc, PhD
    CEO, BC First Nations Forestry Council

  • (December 15, 2020) VANCOUVER, BC – The BC First Nations Forestry Council (the ‘Forestry Council’) is pleased to announce a new partnership with the BC Wildfire Service through the Indigenous Forestry Scholarship Program.

    The Indigenous Forestry Scholarship Program (IFSP) offers Indigenous youth training and employment opportunities in the forest sector and its sub-sectors.

    “This partnership supports the mission of the BC First Nations Forestry Workforce Strategy, which is to achieve sustainable and meaningful career and business opportunities for First Nations in all areas of the BC forest sector,” tells Charlene Higgins, CEO of the BC First Nations Forestry Council.

    Jamie Jeffreys, Director of Strategic Partnerships with the BC Wildfire Service, says, “The BC Wildfire Service is excited to participate in the Indigenous Forestry Scholarship Program. We hope our involvement will increase the placement opportunities available for Indigenous students in the forest and natural resource sector. This is also a great opportunity for our organization to learn from students with emerging concepts of land management and increase Indigenous involvement with wildfire prevention and operations.”

    Joe Daniels is a student from Gitxsan Nation and the 2019 recipient of the Indigenous Forestry Scholarship. Joe hopes to see more opportunities awarded to Indigenous students in forestry:

    “In realizing the potential for conflict between traditional knowledge holders and industrial professionals, I feel like it is my duty to develop the skills necessary to bridge the gap between those two worlds by increasing the capacity of Indigenous leadership in land and resource management.”

    The program has awarded scholarships to five Indigenous students. Scholarship recipients must be enrolled in full-time forestry-related studies. Candidates are then required to participate in summer work that includes periods of one-on-one career mentorship.

     

    For information on the IFSP, please contact:

    Karen Sorensen
    Workforce Development Manager

    First Nations Forestry Council
    karen@forestrycouncil.ca

     

    For media enquiries, please contact:

    Michael Robach
    Communications Manager

    First Nations Forestry Council
    michael@forestrycouncil.ca

  • November 18, 2020 (Vancouver, BC) – The BC First Nations Forestry Council (the ‘Forestry Council’) has released its submission to the province laying out 20 recommendations from First Nations to inform proposed changes to the Forest & Range Practices Act (FRPA), Land Use Planning, and the development of a new strategy for old growth management that reflects First Nations’ values.

    “This report gives the incoming provincial government an opportunity to get ahead of proposed amendments to policies and legislation, and work together with us and First Nations as partners in changes to forest policies and legislation, a commitment they made in 2018”, tells Charlene Higgins, CEO of the Forestry Council.

    “Public engagement stakeholder processes used by the province for gathering input from First Nations that occur after-the-fact do not reflect commitments to implement UNDRIP or meaningful involvement of Nations in proposed amendments to forest policies and regulations”, explains Chief Bill Williams, President of the Forestry Council. “Nations are Rights holders, not stakeholders. They need to be involved in decision-making regarding the governance and stewardship of forest lands and resources in their territories.”

    FRPA is a critical piece of overarching legislation in BC that outlines how forest and range practices are conducted while also protecting environmental and social values. It was developed and introduced in 2004 without First Nations’ input or involvement. Amendments were made to FRPA in 2019 (Bill 21) without meaningful Indigenous involvement.

    The newly released “What We Heard” and recommendations report – Indigenous Values and Principles for Defining Forest Stewardship Objectives – outlines specific feedback from Nations collected during engagement sessions in 2019, along with priorities identified during engagements in the spring of 2020.

    Higgins explains that “this report is only the start of our work with Nations; it should be used to inform the next steps and enable a stronger relationship with the province in our continued efforts to work collaboratively on engaging and increasing the role First Nations play in the management of forest lands and resources”.

    The 20 recommendations submitted to the province provide clear actions to take towards fulfilling their commitment to reconciliation through review of, and changes to, forest legislation, policy, and regulations with First Nations as full partners.

    The report also reinforces the need for the provincial government to follow through on their commitment to fully endorse and implement the BC & First Nations Forest Strategy; a roadmap for how industry, the BC government, and First Nations can work together to build an inclusive and sustainable forest sector.

    “Reconciliation is hard work” tells Higgins. “We look forward to continuing this work with the Nations and the new government, to put words into action in changes to forest policies, legislation and regulations to increase the role Nations play in the governance and stewardship of forest lands and resources.”

     

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  • 16 Oct 2020 by Charlene Higgins

    The BC Government has been engaging with BC First Nations for years to discuss forest revenue sharing models and policies, meaningful approaches to consultation to respect Aboriginal title and rights, tenure reform, and policy changes needed to reallocate volume to increase their participation in the forest sector. But very little has changed to reflect input received from Nations.

    The majority of tenure is still under the control of the few major players, and the Province continues to offer most Nations “take it or leave it” agreements (forest consultation and revenue sharing agreements) that share a minimal percentage (4-6%) of stumpage revenues. In some cases, these agreements provide Nations with as little as $35,000 as accommodation for impacts on Aboriginal interests from forest-related land and resources decisions in their territories.

    In 2018, the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resources Operations and Rural Development (MFLNRORD) made a commitment to develop a revitalized BC & First Nations Forest Strategy (the “Forest Strategy”) in collaboration with First Nations to reflect their commitment to advance reconciliation, implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), and increase the involvement of First Nations in all areas of forestry.

    In 2019, the Forest Strategy was drafted in collaboration with MFLNRORD, based on recommendations First Nations have provided for over a decade. The First Nations Leadership Council and BC First Nations fully endorsed the Forest Strategy in 2019 through resolutions passed by the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, the First Nations Summit, and the BC Assembly of First Nations. However, the BC Government still has not endorsed or committed to implementing the BC & First Nations Forest Strategy.

    The Province has signed agreements with a few Nations that provided a path forward based on reconciliation, collaboration, shared decision-making, increased access to forest tenure opportunities, and access to resources needed to support governance capacity and economic development. These same pillars are reflected in the goals and objectives of the Forest Strategy that change the relationship between the BC Government and all Nations, not just a few. 

    The Forest Strategy has six goals that support the modernization of government-to-government relationships through a collaborative approach to forest governance, stewardship, and joint decision-making. It identifies concrete steps and actions to advance reconciliation in alignment with UNDRIP by making changes to forest legislation, policy, programs, and practices that increase the role First Nations play in the governance and stewardship of forest lands and resources, and their participation in the forest sector as full partners. 

    In several letters sent to BC First Nations in 2018 and 2019 the Government committed to involving Nations in the development of forest policy, including legislative and regulatory review. Regardless of these commitments, the BC Government made significant changes to forest policies and legislation, such as Bill 21 (Forest and Range Practices Amendment Act, 2019) and Bill 22 (Forest Amendment Act, 2019), with no input from First Nations. This includes the development of regulations and policies that disproportionately impact small tenure holders, and puts them at a competitive disadvantage.

    Recently, Premier Horgan committed to “implementing the report, A New Future for Old Forests, in its totality” if re-elected; a report that was developed without meaningful input or engagement with First Nations.

    So, what does commitment really mean?

    A commitment means more than words; it requires action. It means meaningful and sustained engagement with First Nations on forest legislation and policy that impacts directly on First Nations’ land governance and the ability of First Nations’ business to survive and thrive in the forest sector economy.

    We are looking to the incoming BC Government to follow-through with significant commitments made to advance meaningful reconciliation with First Nations. A commitment that BC First Nations are looking for is the endorsement and implementation of the BC &First Nations Forest Strategy “in its totality”.

  • September 18, 2020 (Vancouver, BC) – The Province of BC released its Old Growth Strategic Review Report and recommendations to protect old growth forests without meaningful engagement or input from BC First Nations.

    “The public engagement stakeholder process, used by the Independent Panel to inform the recommendations in the new Old Growth Strategic Review Report, doesn’t recognize or legitimize the relationship the BC Government has committed to having with First Nations as governments and rights holders,” said Chief Bill Williams, President of the BC First Nations Forestry Council (the ‘Forestry Council’).

    He added, “We are disappointed that the Province has only chosen to engage with Indigenous leaders and organizations after-the-fact, and not as true partners in the development of the Old Growth Strategic Review Report, particularly given the cultural significance of many old growth areas.”

    As part of their commitment to implement the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act (the Declaration Act), the Province is obligated to involve First Nations in changes to forest legislation, policies, and regulatory review.

    “For forestry, we are not seeing this in action,” tells Dr. Charlene Higgins, CEO, of the Forestry Council. “The same thing happened in 2019 with Provincial amendments to the Forest Range and Practices Act (Bill 21) and the Forest Amendment Act (Bill 22). Both of these were passed with no meaningful input from Indigenous communities.”

    Article 32 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples specifically affirms that Indigenous peoples have the right to determine and develop priorities and strategies for their territories. This includes the setting of forest management objectives for their territories.

    The Forestry Council is also concerned about continued discussions between the Province and major licensees on potential changes to forest policies and regulations to reduce log costs without the meaningful participation of BC First Nations.

    “The BC Government continues to ignore concerns raised by small First Nations tenure holders regarding changes to forest policies and practices that are disproportionately impacting their costs and ability to harvest their volume, instead choosing to engage in “closed door” conversations with Industry,” says Dr. Charlene Higgins, CEO of the Forestry Council.

    The Forestry Council continues to push the provincial government to fully endorse and implement the BC & First Nations Forest Strategy which provides a framework for how industry, the BC government, and First Nations can work together to build an inclusive and strong forest sector that can put the entire industry in a better position to weather challenging times.

    - End -

    For additional quotes and information: Michael Robach, Communications Manager, michael@forestrycouncil.ca

  • (August 25, 2020) Nanaimo, BC – For many Indigenous BC high schoolers and college graduates, this time of year normally provides opportunities to attend career fairs and networking events that set the path for employment and career opportunities. But in light of the COVID pandemic, there is a growing concern that Indigenous youth will struggle to find these opportunities.

    The BC First Nations Forestry Council (the ‘Forestry Council’) has announced it will be moving its annual Indigenous Forestry Career Fairs into a new virtual space called #ForestryConnect2020, to help connect BC First Nations talent to career opportunities in forestry.

     “As many communities are located remotely, creating a virtual space to connect with students is very exciting,” tells Karen Sorensen, Workforce Development Manager for the Forestry Council.

    Rather than scheduling live video presentations from exhibitors, the two-week event will engage youth through the use of quizzes, personalized videos, and forms to allow participants to learn more about forestry at their own pace, and using any device available to them.

    Exhibitors will have pre-designed “virtual booths” that will present their organizations in more interactive ways than a presentation would at in-person events. Participants will then have the choice of whether they want to submit their information to forestry businesses and organizations for future opportunities.

    “This new format will allow our exhibitors to engage with each participant throughout the province over a longer period of time and provide a better understanding of the opportunities, needs, and goals of becoming involved in forestry,” says Sorensen.

    With a number of educational programs incorporating the event in back-to-school curriculums, the website will also guide students in gaining skills for entering the workforce such as populating resumes and learning about different types of jobs available in forestry.

    Exhibitors are invited to register until September 4th. The event will be taking place online from September 21 to October 2, 2020 and is completely free for registered participants to join. For more information or to register, visit forestrycouncil.ca/cpages/forestryconnect2020.

     

     

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    For career fair information, please contact:

    Karen Sorensen
    Workforce Development Manager

    First Nations Forestry Council 
    karen@forestrycouncil.ca

     

    For media enquiries, please contact:

    Michael Robach
    Communications Manager

    First Nations Forestry Council
    michael@forestrycouncil.ca

     

  • May 1, 2020 (North Vancouver) – Many First Nation Woodland Licences (FNWL) and other small First Nation tenure holders are feeling abandoned by the provincial government’s recently announced support for the BC forest sector.

    In a press release earlier this week, the BC government announced a three-month deferral on stumpage rates in an effort to support the forestry industry, as we deal with the consequences of the global COVID-19 pandemic.

    The BC First Nations Forestry Council (the ‘Forestry Council’) supports actions that maintain jobs for families and rural communities who have been hit hardest by economic downturn in the sector. Unfortunately, this industry cost savings measure does not address the viability of small First Nation tenure holders.

    Many First Nations have not been harvesting on their FNWL because of provincial policies that have added costs, high stumpage, and tough market conditions even before the COVID-19 pandemic.

    “The forest industry is an integral part of many First Nations’ economies,” explained Chief Harley Chingee of McLeod Lake Indian Band. “Current market conditions have caused McLeod Lake to curtail operations at the Band’s 100% owned Duz Cho Forest Products mill. Government’s stumpage deferral will help industry meet their financial commitments to their contractors while we are left waiting for the industry to return to normal operations.”

    “This announcement is strictly about cash flow for industry,” said Dr. Charlene Higgins, Chief Executive Officer of the Forestry Council. “It doesn’t address tenure viability, regulatory hurdles, and provincial policies that have increased costs and administrative burdens that prohibit small First Nations tenure holders from harvesting on their licences. First Nations will not benefit from having mills around to buy wood if they can’t harvest their volume and get it to market.”

    BC First Nations communities have also not been involved in the development of additional silviculture guidelines, and the tree planting program approved by the Office of the Chief Forester, that allows tree planting to proceed in the interior of BC.

    “Indigenous communities are being left out of major decisions the Province is making to address the impacts of COVID-19. This does not align with the principles of the UN Declaration or the intent of Bill 41 (DRIPA),” added Chief Bill Williams, President of the Forestry Council.

    The provincial government has yet to fully endorse and implement the BC & First Nations Forest Strategy that provides a framework for how industry, the BC government, and First Nations can work together to build an inclusive and strong sector that can put the entire industry in a better position to weather challenging times such as this.

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    For further information, please contact: Michael Robach, Communications Manager, michael@forestrycouncil.ca

  • 01 Mar 2020 by Charlene Higgins

    The Interior forest sector is undergoing a transition because of the impacts on mid-term timber supply caused by the mountain pine beetle epidemic (MPB) and two severe wildfire seasons. Although devastating for many communities, this provides an opportunity to revisit forest management and look for ways to manage forests differently. Meaningful inclusion of First Nations in this process has the power to facilitate a climate for investment based on sustainable resource development. With a deep connection to the land and a knowledge that goes back generations, Indigenous peoples need to be key players in the transformation of the forest sector in BC, and involved in the identification of collaborative solutions to address the economic, social, and environmental challenges.

    In the spring of 2019, the BC First Nations Forestry Council (the ‘Forestry Council’) co-hosted a series of workshops alongside the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development with Interior First Nations’ communities. Discussions helped identify key changes to forest policies and legislation needed to advance reconciliation and implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (the “UN Declaration”) to develop a stronger, more inclusive forest sector. The resulting report produced by the Forestry Council, First Nations as Full Partners: Recommendations to Support the Revitalization of the BC Interior Forest Sector, provides 30 actions the province can take towards fulfilling their commitment to reconciliation with First Nations as full partners. This report identifies four key areas of work.

    I. Shared Governance and Land Use Planning

    Changes to forest legislation, policies, and regulations are needed to increase the role First Nations play in the governance and stewardship of forest lands and resources. There is a need to move from consultation models to collaborative decision-making processes. First Nations emphasized the need for land management frameworks and plans that reflect their visions and management objectives for their territories. Research1 undertaken by the Forestry Council has shown that 50 per cent of Nations in BC don’t have their own land use plans (LUPs). Having their own LUPs would allow Nations to identify their values and stewardship objectives and participate in an informed way in landscape level planning.

    II. Tenure Reform and Fibre Supply

    Concentration and control of tenure by a few large companies is a shared concern for First Nations and many British Columbians. Working together to do more with less volume, and developing policies and practices to support increased access to fibre, and utilization through incentives for small First Nations’ tenure holders is in everyone’s best interest. Small First Nation tenure holders, as market loggers, do not control what mills will take, and don’t have the flexibility or scales of economy to address costs to move residual fibre. For First Nations to become full partners in the forest sector, they require increased access to volume and tenure opportunities to level the playing field.

    III. Revenue Sharing

    The forestry economy has a role to play in closing the socio-economic gap, supporting and rebuilding strong, healthy Indigenous communities. Meaningful sharing of stumpage revenues supports the modernization of government-to-government relationships, the well-being of First Nations communities, the development of governance capacity, and increases the ability of Nations to participate in the forest sector.

    IV. Increased First Nations Participation in the Workforce

    In 2018, the Forestry Council launched a BC First Nations Forestry Workforce Strategy (the “Workforce Strategy”) in collaboration with industry to help connect First Nations talent to forest sector opportunities. As recognized by the 2009 Working Roundtable on Forestry, a robust forest sector will require stronger and more meaningful collaboration between Nations, industry, and the Province. The Workforce Strategy paves the way for achieving sustainable and meaningful career, employment, and business outcomes for Indigenous Peoples in the BC forest sector through collaborative partnerships among forest companies, Indigenous Skills and Employment Training Program (formerly Aboriginal Skills and Employment Training Strategy), and the Forestry Council.

    In order to increase certainty, encourage future investments, and ensure the economic and environmental longevity of the sector for generations to come, the transformation of the forest sector must recognize First Nations as full partners and support collaborative partnerships within the industry. Only then can we find a way towards developing a stronger, more sustainable and inclusive forest sector.

    You can read the full report at https://www.forestrycouncil.ca/cpages/interior-renewal.

     

    REFERENCE

    1. First Nations Land Use Plans in British Columbia, BC First Nations Forestry Council, March 2019.

  • November 27, 2019 (Victoria, BC) – The BC First Nations Forestry Council (FNFC) applauds the BC government on being the first in Canada to table and pass legislation (Bill 41) that implements the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (the UN Declaration) as part of the Province’s commitment to reconciliation with First Nations.

    “This is a truly significant moment in our history and the BC First Nations Forestry Council is pleased to support the work of the First Nations Leadership Council and the Province on the development of this legislation,” tells Dr. Charlene Higgins, CEO of FNFC.

    “We see this as an important step forward in the recognition of self-determination, and the development of enabling-tools to support government-to-government decision-making regarding the use of forest lands and resources.”

    The UN Declaration articles 25-32 provide critical guidance for the Province and First Nations to jointly implement systematic changes to increase the role Indigenous Peoples play in the management of lands, and resources, the right to redress or fair and equitable compensation, and the right to the conservation and protection of their lands and territories.

    “For years we have been working with the Province and First Nations on the development of a BC First Nations Forest Strategy and Implementation Plan that outlines actions the Province can take to fulfill their commitment to implementing the UN Declaration,” continues Higgins.

    The BC First Nations Forest Strategy reflects the principles of the UN Declaration and has been informed through direct engagement with First Nations to support government-to-government relationships between the Province and First Nations to increase the role First Nations play in the governance and stewardship of forest lands and resources.

    “Bill 41 can support and enable work in partnership with the BC government on implementation of the BC First Nations Forest Strategy, and lays the groundwork for the development of forest policies, programs, and legislation needed to implement the principles of the UN Declaration,” continues Higgins.

    “It’s a step in the right direction towards making First Nations full partners in the forest sector.”
     

    - END -

    For media enquiries, please contact:

    Michael Robach
    Communications Manager
    BC First Nations Forestry Council
    Email: michael@forestrycouncil.ca

  • Vancouver, BC (November 13, 2019) – The BC First Nations Forestry Council (FNFC) has released its submission to the Province laying out recommendations to support the revitalization of the BC interior forest sector with First Nations as full partners.

    For too long, First Nations have been left out of decision-making regarding the use of forest lands and resources on their territories. As the original stewards, with a deep connection to the land, First Nations hold a knowledge that goes back generations.

    “First Nations need to be key players in the transformation of the forest sector in BC, and involved in the identification of collaborative solutions to address the economic, social, and environmental challenges of managing forest lands and resources” tells Charlene Higgins, CEO of the FNFC.

    Regional workshops held in interior BC this fall helped identify four key areas for improvement: shared governance & land use planning, tenure reform and fibre supply, revenue sharing, and increased First Nations participation in the workforce.

    The report provides 30 actions the Province can take towards fulfilling their commitment to reconciliation through review of, and changes to, forest legislation, policy, and regulations with First Nations as equal partners.

    “This report helps identify changes needed to support sustainable forest management, a stronger, globally competitive forest sector, resilient communities, and reconciliation with Indigenous communities,” tells Higgins. “All British Columbians benefit from a strong forest sector, which First Nations can play an important role in revitalizing.”

    The report is available for download at: https://www.forestrycouncil.ca/cpages/interior-renewal

    - END -

    About the BC First Nations Forestry Council The FNFC is an advocacy organization that works to support Nations in their efforts to increase their role in the governance and stewardship of forest lands and resources, and participation in the forest sector. FNFC does not represent the Nations, nor are we a consultatory body. The FNFC does so by assisting First Nations in their efforts to improve and sustain the economic wealth and wellbeing their communities based on sustainability principles and Indigenous values that ensure the viability of the forests and lands for current and future generations. The FNFC also supports First Nations in their work with governments and others to ensure that First Nations’ needs, values, and principles are factored into forestry-related legislation, policy and program development.

  • September 17, 2019 (Vancouver, BC) – The BC First Nations Forestry Council (FNFC) has awarded 21 study and work scholarships for Indigenous students from over 17 Nations across the province this year, a record number for the program since its inception.
    The Indigenous Forestry Training Program (IFTP) was launched by FNFC in 2012 in partnership with both the Ministry of Forests, Lands & Natural Resource Operations (FLNRO) and BC Timber Sales (BCTS) to help promote and create opportunities for BC First Nations people, specifically in the forest technician and management education and employment streams.

    “Helping to support a new generation of Indigenous workers and forest professionals in the BC Forest Sector through education and employment opportunities is a key pillar in our Workforce Strategy.” says Dr. Charlene Higgins, CEO of the FNFC.
    Recipients of the scholarships are required to not only be enrolled in full-time forestry-related studies, they must also carry out paid summer work experiences, as well as work one-on-one with a mentor to help better integrate them into their field of forestry on an individualized basis.

    In a first for the program, FLNRO expanded its education and training streams this year to allow for placements in a variety of forestry sub-sectors, including Business Management and Administration, forestry trades, and Geographic Information Systems. This opens up the potential for increasing the number of industry partners who also want to participate in the delivery of summer internships.

    “This expansion of the Indigenous Forestry Training program is an exciting opportunity to showcase the diversity of training and employment opportunities in the forest sector and its sub-sectors. This will hopefully attract more Indigenous people to forestry, leading to the increased participation and success of BC First Nations peoples in the forest sector,” says Higgins.

    The 2018-2028 Provincial Labour Market Outlook report forecasted a significant turnover in the sector’s aging workforce that translates to an estimated 11,419 new jobs by 2028.

    Joe Daniels, a student from Gitxsan Nation and one of this year’s scholarship recipients, hopes to use this opportunity to improve things in his area: “With realizing the coming potential for conflict between traditional knowledge holders and industrial professionals, I feel like it is my duty to develop the skills necessary to bridge the gap between those two worlds and provide the capacity to further develop indigenous leadership in land and resource management in my area.”

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