The BC government continues to use glyphosate and other poisons to clear forest lands of unwanted vegetation. Unwanted only by the forest industry.
The species that this government is killing are the same species that Indigenous Peoples have harvested, and continue to harvest, since time immemorial for food and medicines.
In Question Period, I asked the Minister why this continues, and if her Ministry has undertaken the necessary Indigenous consultations.
Frankly, her responses were shocking.
Yesterday we celebrated the tabling of the Declaration Act action plan. We’ve repeatedly committed to repairing the legacies of colonialism, to upholding Indigenous rights, including their rights to their territories — rights to fish, hunt, gather medicines and foods, unencumbered.
This week, Angelina Hopkins Rose, from St’át’imc Nation, was in the news. Hopkins Rose is calling on the government to pause a proposed land management plan to spray glyphosate and other poisons in the unceded territories of the Stó:lō the St’át’imc, the Nlaka’pamux, Musqueam, Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh First Nations. Hopkins Rose’s activism has been successful. This weekend, my constituency office — actually, our constituency offices — received over 2,000 emails on the issue.
The management plan in question takes effect tomorrow, and will have these carcinogenic chemicals sprayed broadly across their land. Lands where Indigenous peoples regularly harvest berries and other traditional plants and medicines. Hopkins Rose is saying there was not nearly enough consultation with Indigenous peoples on this management plan.
My question is to the Minister of Forests. In keeping with our commitments under the Declaration Act, will the minister pause the spraying of glyphosate set to begin tomorrow, and order a consultation with Indigenous peoples that have been affected by this?
Hon. K. Conroy:
I thank the member for the question. I’ve done a lot of research on this, because we’ve also been…. There is questions about glyphosate use in forestry and the effects of glyphosate on human health has been really extensively reviewed by international regulatory agencies, including Health Canada, with the conclusion being that exposure to glyphosate does not pose a carcinogenic or general toxic risk to humans. It remains an important tool for establishing conifer or conifer deciduous-mixed stands and ensuring future timber supplies.
But that said, the use of this herbicide in B.C.’s forest sector has declined significantly in recent years, as foresters use a variety of approaches to manage competing vegetation, including manual, mechanical, burning, biological and herbicides. The glyphosate use in forestry has to comply with B.C.’s Integrated Pest Management Act, and steps have to be taken to minimize impacts on environment, including in fish-bearing streams.
Member for Saanich North and the Islands — supplemental.
My question was about whether or not engagement with Indigenous nations, as we celebrated — quite intensely celebrated — yesterday, allowing non-members onto the floor of this Legislature to speak, is a substantial thing. According to the plan, B.C. Timber Sales will be permitted to spray. Whether they’re spraying less now than they have in the past makes little difference. The fact of the matter is that they’re going to be allowed to spray glyphosate and other poisons for the next five years.
These poisons will be used to kill salal, mushrooms, Indian hellebore, and berries — thimbleberry, raspberry, salmonberry, red elderberry, huckleberry, blueberry, ocean spray. These are all species that are unwanted, apparently. Unwanted by who? I don’t think they’re unwanted by the bears, but they’re certainly not unwanted by Indigenous people who have been picking and harvesting these as staple food sources for thousands of years.
Ocean spray, as an example of the connection that I want to make here…. Ocean spray, as my uncle J,SIṈTEN talks about, is the sign of Saanich summer. When the ocean spray starts to bloom, and we can smell that beautiful scent throughout our territories, we know it’s time to go out and engage our fishing in the summer in the Gulf Islands. These are species that are unwanted, but yet Indigenous people have been using them — species such as ocean spray — to be able to understand how to live properly in our territories. These will just be wiped out with the spraying of glyphosate.
My question is to the Minister of Forests. Does the minister believe that the rights of Indigenous peoples to harvest traditional plants are outweighed by the ministry’s interests to maximize harvest volumes by the spraying of glyphosate?
Hon. K. Conroy:
I respect the member asking the question, and his considerable knowledge on Indigenous peoples culture. I respect that there have been changes in this Legislature.
We are working with Indigenous people. In fact, under the B.C. Integrated Pest Management Act and the B.C. Integrated Pest Management Regulation, the use of herbicide and products in forestry for vegetation and invasive plant control requires authorization by way of registering a pest management plan, which requires First Nations and public consultation — but First Nations consultation. That is something that we take seriously. Every year a notice of intent has to be submitted to the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change, with detailed treatment maps. Again, that consultation with First Nation is required.
There has also been new technique on using superior orchard seed, improved nursery techniques, fast-growing seedlings and well-timed planting so that we can improve plantation survival in areas of high vegetative competition. That’s reducing the amount of herbicide used for plantation management.
I visited the plantation, the centre, in Vernon recently and saw the work that was being done on this, the considerable work being done to try to improve the seeds that we are using right across the province to ensure that we can use less herbicide when it comes to making sure that we are investing in our forests. But also, it’s very critical that they also consult with Indigenous nations, which is part of what the act is about.