Greetings to all,
I am honoured to take on the position of Chief Executive Officer to continue the advocacy work of the BC First Nations Forestry Council (the ‘Forestry Council’), and to step into Keith Atkinson’s role after working closely with him for over 10 years.
The Forestry Council has continued its work advocating for an increased role of First Nations in the governance and stewardship of forest lands and resources, including access to an equitable share of benefits. This has been led by engagement with Nations to bring their voices and priorities forward in the changes needed to forest policies, legislation, and practices to increase their participation in the forest sector.
Over the last couple of years, we have developed tools and resources to help guide and inform the incorporation of Indigenous values and principles in land-use planning and stewardship. The focus of our work has involved the development of a BC & First Nations Forest Strategy (the ‘Forest Strategy’), in collaboration with the province, and informed by direct input from First Nations over five years.
The development of a new BC First Nations Forestry Workforce Strategy has also supported the growth of partnerships and programs that are fundamental in linking Indigenous talent to employment and training opportunities in the BC forest sector.
The Indigenous Forestry Scholarship Program saw amazing results in growth and success this year, with four students making their Dean’s List.
We were also honoured to welcome over 184 attendees at our first ever BC First Nations Forestry Conference in June 2019. The three day event saw the launch of the BC & First Nations Forest Strategy and Implementation Plan, showcased forestry workforce opportunities, and First Nations’ Industry partnerships.
There has been a lot of talk over the past decade; now it’s time for action. The future is about change.
The Forest Strategy implements UNDRIP, advances reconciliation, shared decision-making, and supports partnerships with industry and others to provide jobs, building a strong, inclusive way forward with First Nations as full partners. Together, the Forest Strategy and Bill 41 (DRIPA) provide a new way forward that will increase certainty, encourage future investments, and support the longevity of the forest sector for generations to come.
We look forward to continuing our work with BC First Nations to ensure the province lives up to their commitment to develop and implement a shared vision for a revitalized BC forest sector that includes First Nations as full partners. We are here to listen to your recommendations and concerns, and continue to advocate for the changes needed to forest legislation, policies, and practices to better reflect First Nations’ rights, values, and priorities.
Together we can make change happen. #ItsTime
Dr. Charlene Higgins
CEO, BC First Nations Forestry Council