By Mary Polak
Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation
VICTORIA - This past week, B.C. celebrated an agreement with the Kaska Dena Council in northwestern B.C. that will provide greater certainty about how resource development can proceed in more than 10 per cent of the province.
Genuine collaboration is key to First Nations working more closely with industry and the Province to build a better economic future. This government's approach over the past decade has been to forge a stronger, more respectful relationship with First Nations, while also creating a climate where vital resource industries such as mining can flourish.
Our good faith approach has fostered respectful partnerships that enhance economic development to benefit all communities across B.C. The BC Business Council, the Mining Association of British Columbia and the Association for Mineral Exploration British Columbia have publicly endorsed our way of working with First Nations.
The Kaska Dena Strategic Engagement Agreement (SEA) is just one example. It enables B.C. and Kaska Dena to work together more efficiently and helps streamline the review of resource permitting in a way that is respectful to the economic, social and cultural needs of First Nations and is helpful to industry.
Lorne Waldman of Silvercorp Metals has stated, "When government and First Nations are able to get along, when there is equitable sharing of benefits, a positive environment for responsible economic development flourishes."
Last year, we signed a SEA with another northwestern First Nation, the Taku River Tlingit, to create new protected areas while also providing resource development opportunities and investment certainty. Other SEAs have been signed with the Ktunaxa Nation in the Kootenays, Tsilhqot'in National Government in the Chilcotin, and the Nanwakolas Council on Vancouver Island, bringing benefits to communities and supporting job creation.
B.C. is also the first province to share revenue from mining and other resources with First Nations, creating opportunities that flow the benefits directly back into Aboriginal communities, while benefiting all British Columbians.
Our Forest Consultation and Revenue Sharing Agreements provide economic benefits directly to First Nations communities based on forestry activity in their traditional territories. Since December 2010, we have signed 87 of these agreements throughout B.C.
We have also taken steps to ensure that First Nations communities can benefit from mining activity, through agreements to share direct mineral tax revenue on new mines and major mine expansions. We have signed agreements with the McLeod Lake Indian Band for the Mount Milligan Mine, and with the Tk'emlúps and Skeetchestn Indian Bands for the New Afton Mine. Further agreements are being negotiated.
There are numerous other examples of the types of innovative non-treaty agreements we are pursuing, which bring benefits and jobs to communities throughout B.C. These also include a 2011 reconciliation protocol with the Nanwakolas First Nations that has the potential for revenue-sharing opportunities from mines and clean power; and B.C.'s first-ever First Nations' woodland licence, awarded to the Huu-ay-aht First Nation last year, enabling them to harvest approximately 70,000 cubic metres of timber per year.
We are proud of our innovative and responsible approach to consulting with First Nations which is respectful of their history and their needs in the future, while also supporting the resource sector that is central to B.C.'s economic development.
Contrast today's optimistic landscape with the 1990s, when B.C.'s mining industry was struggling, and the government of the day did not have the same respectful relationship with First Nations that our current government has built over the last decade. Our government has built a foundation of working in partnership with First Nations and the business community.
We are proud of our unique approach to resolving First Nations issues in a collaborative way, while also supporting the resource sector that is central to a brighter economic future.
Government Communications and Public Engagement
Ministry of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation
250 213-6451 (cell)
By Mary Polak