I continue to ask the BC NDP government about their willingness to follow the recommendations of their own panel to “defer development in old forests where ecosystems are at very high and near-term risk of irreversible biodiversity loss,” and to put mechanisms in place to ensure there are a variety of options for economic development for Indigenous Nations.
As I outline in my supplemental question, the Union of BC Indian Chiefs has written the provincial government stating “the current landscape of old-growth logging has been exacerbated over years by successive BC governments working to commercialize all old growth timber and foster an economic dependence on old-growth logging in First Nations communities.” The options offered by the provincial government are take it (benefits and revenue sharing from logging) or leave it (economic stability).
Today, I asked Premier John Horgan about Fairy Creek. With an injunction from Teal Jones seeking to remove a blockade before the court tomorrow, time is running out for the Premier to step up, be good to his word, and protect this last stand of high-productivity monumental old-growth while providing Pacheedaht Nation options for economic development that are not solely connected to logging that old-growth.
The satellite images don’t deceive. No matter how the Minister of Forests chooses to organize the devastation in her mind, it’s hard to unsee the fact that there are no valleys remaining on southern Vancouver Island that are like Fairy Creek in the Premier’s riding. You don’t even need to bother counting trees, just look at the pictures. You can’t miss the reality that the government of British Columbia has already laid waste to most of the monumental, high-productivity old growth in our region.
This government, like previous provincial governments, signed revenue-sharing agreements with Indigenous nations and industry –– in this case logging. They’re often very narrow conversations to facilitate logging above all else, without putting forward other economic opportunities.
Let be me be clear: an approach of “take it or leave it” without alternatives to logging does not provide real options for economic development. My question is to the Premier. Will he direct the ministers of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, Finance, and Forests to develop a package for our relatives in Pacheedaht, that includes conservation financing and a buyback of the cut blocks in order to provide real options to save Fairy Creek.
Hon. K. Conroy:
I thank the member for the question. The member needs to know that we are dedicated to bringing in a fundamental shift in forestry, to make sure that we are working with Indigenous nations and to make sure that we are protecting and preserving forests for people today and for years to come. We’re going to do this important work while supporting forest workers and communities.
I know that the member has expressed concerns in the past. I will agree with him in that for too long communities did not have a say in how their forests were managed. For too long, the people in the region did not have a say, and definitely Indigenous nations did not have a say.
So we are taking a different approach. We were the first province in Canada to bring in the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, that all people in the House sat and supported. This legislation creates a path forward that respects the rights of Indigenous Peoples. We are committed to working forward on this path and committed to working with nations and ensuring that we can all move forward to ensure that we have a sustainable, well-managed forest industry for years to come in this province.
Let’s be clear: the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples isn’t an end point, it’s a path that we’re walking on today, and that Fairy Creek watershed is the very definition of the high-risk ecosystem that the old-growth strategic review panel recommendation No. 6 called for immediate deferral while an old-growth strategy is developed.
The Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs is calling on this government to provide critical funding needed to fulfill its obligations to Indigenous people to implement the recommendations of that old-growth panel. They say:
“The current landscape of old-growth logging has been exacerbated over years by successive B.C. governments working to commercialize all old-growth timber and foster an economic dependence on old-growth logging in First Nations communities. They have achieved this by arranging agreements for revenue sharing, employment, joint ventures and tenures for old-growth timber in contentious areas for First Nations, who face limited economic opportunities as a result of years of colonialism and racism.”
Tomorrow the courts will hear an injunction request by Teal-Jones to remove blockades from Fairy Creek and gain access to logging in this valley. My question, again, is to the Premier. Will he direct his ministers to develop a package for our relatives in Pacheedaht that includes conservation financing and a buyback of the cut blocks in order to provide real options to save Fairy Creek?
Hon. K. Conroy:
We are moving forward with the report that the member has referenced. We already took that first step where we discussed and engaged with Indigenous Nations to ensure that we could defer nine areas across the province to defer old-growth forests right across the province. We recognize that the number one recommendation in the report was to engage on a government-to-government basis with Indigenous Nations, and we are moving forward to doing that to ensure that we have those discussions with the nations, and we are starting to do those discussions –– but reminding the member that it is critically important that we have those discussions, that we have the time to do it, but that we also make sure that we are having those discussions with industry, with working people, with the communities that are affected, as the member has mentioned.
But I want to make it clear that the Gorley and Merkel report, the recommendations that they brought forward…. It said to make sure that we have that discussion with Indigenous Nations. It’s critically important we do that, and we are committed to doing that.