“You can’t consult about trees that are already cut!”

Mar 17, 2021 | 42-1, Blog, Governance, Question Period, Video | 0 comments

My colleague Sonia Furstenau and I continued to ask questions about old-growth logging and specifically pressed government on the claims made by the Minister of Forests that they “are committed to government-to-government discussions with Indigenous nations in this province as the number one recommendation from the old-growth report.”

As we have seen this week the Minister of Forests has used consultation with Indigenous Nations as little more than political cover while she reiterates the importance of consultation.

However, Sonia and I used this session of Question Period to directly quote leaders of Indigenous Nations who have explicitly asked the province to halt the logging of old-growth in their territories. These requests have not been accommodated. Despite Minister Conroy’s verbal commitments, her Ministry continues to log unabated.

The BC NDP have backed themselves into the corner. Premier John Horgan made promises during the election that his government is unwilling to keep. His Minister is making statements about their commitment to Indigenous consultation in Question Period and in the media, but they are reluctant to back it up with action.

Finally, when I ask the Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation what leadership role he and his Ministry are playing, it’s the Minister of Forests who responded, sending a strong message to Indigenous leaders who is actually in control of policy in this province.

This is totally unacceptable at every level.

[Transcript]

A. Olsen:

What is clear from the Minister of Forest’s response is that they’re getting it wrong. They’re getting it wrong because you can’t consult about trees that are already cut. The minister, when asked a direct question about an Indigenous leader, Randy Cook, north Island, starts to rattle off about other areas that are protected that are not in the territories that we’re talking about.

Quoting the Nuchatlaht Nation hereditary and band council chief Jordan Michael, “The Nuchatlaht Nation is fed up with the B.C. government and logging companies gaslighting our people. In fact, it’s hard to tell the difference between logging corporations and the government sometimes. We want to end the theft of our old-growth rainforests and steward our lands in a way that benefits everyone, not just wealthy shareholders. When will the Premier, the Minister of Forests and the Attorney General honour the rights and title of the Nuchatlaht Nation and stop prioritizing Western Forest Products profits over the health of the environment, wild salmon, and my people’s cultural heritage in the old-growth forests of Nootka Island?”

My question is to the Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation. What specific steps has he taken to date in partnership with the FLNRORD to begin to prioritize reconciliation and restore Indigenous self-determination, decision-making and stewardship in the management of our forests?

[2:30 p.m.]

Hon. K. Conroy:

Again, we are committed to government-to-government discussions with Indigenous nations in this province, as the number one recommendation from the old-growth report. I will remind the member that the old-growth report was written by two illustrious foresters in this province, Al Gorley and Garry Merkel. Garry Merkel is a member of the Tahltan Nation.

We know that we need to…. What we have done are those 14 recommendations where we deferred over 100,000 of hectares of old-growth forest, but we also know that we did that in discussion with Indigenous nations. We have more to do. We don’t deny that. We have more to do. We will be reaching out to Indigenous nations, and we will be reaching out to them on a government-to-government basis to have those important discussions about their land, about the nations that want to be involved in forestry, the nations that want to involved in tenure management and in stewardship of the land. We recognize how critically important that is, and we are committed to doing that.

Mr. Speaker:

The member for Abbotsford South.

A. Olsen:

Mr. Speaker, I have a supplemental.

Mr. Speaker:

Member, go for a supplemental.

A. Olsen:

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I think whoever is making the decisions about who’s answering these questions just put Indigenous nations on notice as to the rank and file of where the Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation stands in the grand scheme of things of this government.

My question was not about forests. My question was about what the Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation has done to advance this conversation, a question specific to that minister, a ministry which I hold to high esteem.

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs has also called for immediate protections to create space for proper consultation. He said to have good-faith conversations, we must “put away the power saws.” UBCIC has written a letter to this government, explaining why adequate funding is a critical component of reconciliation and a shift away from old-growth logging.

“With a lack of critical and accessible funding, combined with the government’s overwhelming influence resulting in Indigenous dependency on old-growth logging jobs and revenues, First Nations Resulting in Indigenous dependency on old-growth logging jobs, First Nations communities are unable to exercise their title and rights to freely pursue their economic options consistent with the protection of old-growth forests and Indigenous self-determination.”

To quote the letter again:

“Conservation financing is vital to support and advance sustainable economic self-determination in First Nations communities to ensure that an equivalent economic alternative to old-growth logging is available for these communities”.

Again my question is to the Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation. Has the minister, along with his counterpart in FLNRORD, brought forward a proposal for conservation financing as a central part of reconciliation and a new forestry paradigm for next month’s budget?

Hon. M. Rankin:

I reiterate what my colleague the minister responsible for forests and the old-growth strategy has said. The first recommendation of the report, which was co-authored by Mr. Merkel of the Tahltan Nation, commits our government to work with Indigenous peoples. I have the greatest respect for Grand Chief Stewart Phillip and am aware of the correspondence that the member refers to. Of course we’ll continue to be involved as a member of the executive council in the decision-making respecting this critically important file.

We are playing a supportive role across government and will continue to do so. I thank the member for his question.

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