Beginning February 16, First Nations from around BC began taking action to indicate their growing frustration with the Liberal government’s land and forestry agenda.
These actions are part of a coordinated Action Plan developed by the newly-created Title and Rights Alliance.
Over 40 people representing a number of First Nations from the Shuswap Nation Tribal Council (SNTC) made their displeasure tangible by taking over the Ministry of Forests Regional Office in Kamloops at 1 pm today.
The SNTC, Spallumcheen — and other First Nations taking action in the coming weeks — object to new legislation that give greater control to big logging, mining and oil & gas companies.
Despite the rhetoric in the Throne Speech about “dialogue and negotiations“, the Liberals continue to change forestry and land-use laws to undermine First Nations’ legal advances.
Recently, BC courts have ruled that First Nations need to be consulted and accommodated by both industry and the Crown. Yet, instead of implementing the court decisions, the provincial Crown has amended the law to avoid the government’s duty to consult First Nations and to hand over decision-making to tenure holders, making it more difficult and expensive for First Nations to go to court.
While moving forward with its pro-corporate schemes, the Liberal’s continue to ignore First Nations input and remove all the regulations that safeguard community economic benefits. Meanwhile, the provincial Crown has refused to address fundamental First Nations issues such as jurisdiction, control, decision making and revenue-sharing.
Instead the Provincial government is offering token forestry agreements that attempt to create the impression of progress while logging, mining and oil and gas development continues unabated.
These agreements offer small sums of money and little bits of wood, in exchange for assurances from First Nations that business-as-usual logging can carry on. 29 such forestry agreements have been signed by First Nations.
Actions, such as the occupation by the SNTC, and the indigenous protected area designated by the Spallumcheen, illustrate that First Nations are pursuing new tools to advance their interests and defend their lands.
Although largely unreported by the mainstream press, last December, 63 First Nations from throughout British Columbia filed Aboriginal Title lawsuits. Rumour has it that more legal actions, including challenges to the new forest amendments, are being explored by the Title & Rights Alliance and supporting First Nations.
More actions are expected in the coming weeks. Dogwood Initiative will keep you posted as events unfold.