On June 29, 2021, the B.C. Supreme Court issued a historic ruling in Blueberry River First Nations (Yahey) v. Province of British Columbia, determining the Treaty 8 rights of the Blueberry River First Nations have been breached by development authorized by the provincial government over many years.
On Oct. 7, 2021, Blueberry River First Nations and the Province reached an initial agreement that begins to support healing the land, and helps provide stability and certainty for forestry and oil and gas permit holders in Blueberry’s traditional territory in the immediate term.
The initial agreement is a first step in responding to the B.C. Supreme Court’s decision.
The purpose of this initial agreement is to make investments in healing the land, cultural renewal, wildlife management and land protection while finding a way forward for projects that were already permitted or authorized prior to the court decision, and where activities have not yet started.
Interim and long-term approaches for authorizations and land management are still being negotiated and the Province and Blueberry will continue to provide joint updates as the discussions progress.
There are several components to the initial agreement:
Healing the Land
- To support healing the land, a $35-million fund has been established for programs and projects, such as:
- land, road and seismic restoration;
- river, stream and wetland restoration;
- habitat connectivity;
- native seed and nursery projects; and
- training for restoration activities.
- The Blueberry River First Nations government will establish its own decision-making structure with respect to the utilization of the restoration funds, priorities for restoration and for methodology and allocation of funding. The Province will participate in this structure, in a non-decision making role, to ensure that region-wide restoration activities are co-ordinated.
- Should the Province establish a Treaty 8 structure for restoration or healing the land, Blueberry will name a representative to it.
Protecting Blueberry’s Cultural Way of Life
- To support Blueberry’s cultural way of life, a $10-million fund has been established for projects and programs, such as:
- rebuilding and renewing trapline and hunting cabins;
- restoring cultural areas in the area of Pink Mountain;
- building trails;
- developing educational materials; and
- teaching of traditional skills and language advisors.
- These cultural renewal programs will create jobs for Blueberry youth and Elders, as well as others living and working in Treaty 8 territory.
Developing Knowledge Tools for Land Management
- To support capacity development, a $10-million fund has been established for projects and programs, such as:
- hiring new staff for the Blueberry Lands Department;
- implementing data management and eco-based mapping systems;
- training for staff and membership;
- communicating and educating with the public and proponents; and
- hiring consultants.
Restoring the Health of Wildlife
- To support Blueberry’s involvement in wildlife management in the region, a $10-million fund has been established for projects and programs, such as:
- predator control;
- moose and fur-bearer studies;
- habitat enhancement;
- prescribed burns and land adaptation;
- caribou recovery partnerships with the Province; and
- restrictions on the use of herbicides.
- Additionally, the Province will work with Blueberry River First Nations and other Treaty 8 Nations on updating moose hunting regulations intended to restore healthy moose populations.
As part of the agreement, 195 forestry and oil and gas projects which were permitted or authorized prior to the court decision, and where activities have not yet started, will proceed. Twenty currently approved authorizations, which relate to development activities in areas of high cultural importance, will not proceed without further negotiation and agreement from Blueberry River First Nations.
Blueberry and British Columbia recognize that communication is important to strengthening community relations and ensuring business stability and have agreed to develop joint communications and engagement processes.