The Burns Lake Band — along with six other Carrier Sekani First Nations — has signed a historic partnership with the province that promises to advance reconciliation and bring predictability to the forest products industry.
The ‘Pathways Forward 2.0 Agreement’ aims to boost economic development by establishing partnerships between First Nations and industry and implementing new processes for collaborative decision making.
According to the forests ministry, collaboration is key to bringing predictability to the forest sector, which has faced several challenges. Minister Doug Donaldson said this predictability would not only benefit the Carrier Sekani Nations, but also other forestry operators in the region.
“The agreement provides unprecedented forestry certainty with the largest collective of First Nations people that government has signed a reconciliation agreement with, and whose territories are in the heart of forestry in the Interior,” Donaldson said.
Burns Lake Band Chief Dan George joined representatives from the other six signatories — Stellat’en First Nation, Nadleh Whut’en, Saik’uz First Nation, Nak’azdli Whut’en, Takla Nation and Tl’azt’en Nation — to celebrate the signing of the agreement in Prince George last week.
Burns Lake Mayor Dolores Funk praised the “successful negotiation” of the partnership, which is the result of work between the Nations and the province since 2014.
“My hope is that this agreement builds strong, healthy relationships and partnerships that result in better communities for all,” said Funk.
Tribal Chief Mina Holmes of the Carrier Sekani Tribal Council said the agreement is founded on the principles of unity, equity, capacity and economic sustainability.
“These principles will strengthen the existing relationship between our Nations and neighbouring communities as we are all here to stay,” Holmes said. “We are committed to continuing to improve these relationships.”
The combined territories of the seven Nations spans approximately 69,600 square kilometres (6.96 million hectares), which is almost the size of New Brunswick. Their combined population is over 8,400 people.
Premier John Horgan said the partnership will help “lift people up” and make life better for communities throughout the Omineca region.
“We are taking important steps together to make sure Carrier Sekani communities and all Indigenous communities benefit from economic development and nation building into the future,” Horgan said.
The Pathways Forward 2.0 Agreement also commits to bringing the federal government to the negotiations going forward. Priorities for continued negotiation of a long-term agreement include lands, forest tenure opportunities and implementation of rights and title.