Media

  • 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.”

     

    -  END   -

     

  • 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

  • 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.

    - End -

    For further information, please contact: 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.

     

     

    - END    -

     

     

    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

     

  • 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.”