After a rough patch, Lake Babine Nation (LBN) and the provincial government have agreed to develop a roadmap to reconciliation.
The province has been collaborating with LBN on a new approach to reconciliation that would be implemented over a 25-year span. The proposed agreement, which was expected to be finalized last December, would strengthens LBN’s participation in the regional forest economy and set out incremental steps designed to address Aboriginal rights and title.
Last November, LBN Chief Wilf Adam told Lakes District News that he was considering withdrawing his support for LNG projects after the proposed 25-year agreement with the province fell through. At that time, he said he was “very disappointed” after a meeting with provincial government representatives.
Chief Adam said LBN did not agree with some of the terms of the agreement, especially the ones related to forestry.
“What they put on the table is not enough; it’s less than what they are offering elsewhere and it will not work for LBN at all,” Chief Adam said last December. “We’ll give negotiations one more shot; if that doesn’t work, then everything is off the table.”
Chief Adam said that, since then, LBN and the province have “ironed out their issues somewhat.”
Minister of aboriginal relations and reconciliation John Rustad and Chief Adam recently signed a ‘foundation pathway agreement,’ which is an interim agreement.
“It’s interim mainly because of the provincial election in a couple months,” explained Chief Adam. “We agreed to negotiate a full agreement after the election with whom wins the election.”
A longer-term agreement would allow B.C. and LBN to co-operatively clarify respective governance and decision-making. It would also strengthens LBN’s participation in the regional forest economy through new forest tenure opportunities, partnership opportunities with BC Timber Sales and the development of a regional forestry forum.
“This agreement is a key step on the path to developing a powerful new approach to reconciliation, a first-of-its-kind 25-year agreement,” said minister Rustad. “This approach will provide First Nations and industry the certainty they need to drive toward new partnerships.”
Chief Adam added that the path LBN is seeking to build with B.C. is one where they can create meaningful change.
“This will take real courage by both parties,” he said. “There is much at stake for both Lake Babine and B.C.; the work is urgent and cannot await another generation.”