I followed up my previous question to Hon. Katrine Conroy (Minister of Forests) about her defense of the aerial spraying of glyphosate on B.C. forest lands.
Ultimately, the food security that the provincial government talks about does not include Indigenous practices of hunting, fishing, and gathering of wild foods and medicines.
Glyphosate is used to clear tree farms of the unwanted pest species which are ultimately native plants. The goal is to protect the ability of the forest industry to maximize their timber harvest.
These policies equate to environmental racism. An issue the Minister will not deny.
Food security is a growing concern in British Columbia. With the impact of the climate emergency, food security is felt in the grocery stores and in our budget — empty shelves and sky-high prices of food. But in Indigenous communities, such as my own, food security has been under threat for much longer. We view, in here, food security through a colonial lens.
Take, for example, how resource development has significant negative impacts on hunting. Each year my family goes hunting for a moose, but in recent years, it has been more like a hike with a gun. As my sister Joni Olsen, a negotiations analyst for the W̱SÁNEĆ Leadership Council, said at a recent meeting:
“The western definition of food security has and continues to destroy Indigenous food security. Agricultural nutrients and fecal matter in the waterways have cumulative effects on species and create DFO closures on our beaches. When the tide is out, our table is set. But this has not been the case on polluted beaches. When the beaches close, it criminalizes our harvesting and our food security. Keep in mind that the Blueberry ruling was on the cumulative impact that toxin input and removal of habitat contribute to.”
What specific actions has the minister taken to protect all forms of food security, including the right of Indigenous people to harvest wild animals, plants and medicines?
Hon. L. Popham:
Thank you for the question.
I think it’s a important question to be posing, especially these days, as we see so many situations where our general food security in the province has been under treat by climate change–related disasters, supply chain issues, because of the pandemic. All of this brings into question what is food security for our province. It’s one of the things that our government is especially interested in, because we need to include everybody in that conversation.
So two years ago, through my ministry, we formed the B.C. Indigenous Advisory Council on Agriculture and Food. Throughout these last two years, we’ve come to a terms of reference. We are now compiling, working with Indigenous partners, a set of action plans that reflect what we would consider modern-day food security but, also, Indigenous food security. That takes into account different types of food systems, like natural food systems, wild mushrooms, berries, etc.
I think we’re well on our way to having a different lens on what food security is, and I’m really proud of the work that has been done by our Indigenous partners.
Member for Saanich North and the Islands, supplemental.
I thank the minister for her response. It’s an important response, because last Thursday, we heard the Minister of Forests defend the spraying of poisonous glyphosate, saying it was allowed because it’s regulated through the Integrated Pest Management Act.
Let me remind the Minister of Forests that these pesky plant species that she justifies killing are native plants. They’re not pests. They’re the foods and the medicines Indigenous peoples have harvested and traded since time and immemorial. Our Minister of Forests is killing native plant species as pests. It’s no wonder why this government has been so reluctant to actually pass biodiversity legislation. They’re too eager to wipe out whatever biodiversity we have left to protect these lifeless tree farms so the forestry industry can increase their timber harvest volumes.
If willfully destroying biodiversity isn’t enough, the policy our Minister of Forests defended last week is a clear example of environmental racism. When asked about this last week, the minister did not answer the question. In fact, the minister knowingly ignored this clear case of environmental racism and took refuge in the laws and regulations that enable environmental racism to exist in British Columbia.
So I’ll ask the minister again. Does the minister believe that the rights of Indigenous peoples to harvest traditional plants are outweighed by the ministry’s interest to maximize harvest volumes by spraying glyphosate?
Hon. K. Conroy:
Just to be clear, since 2015, the use of glyphosate in the forestry sector has actually declined by 95 percent. The member referred last week to the Sea to Sky region. Glyphosate has not been used in that area for over ten years, and there is no planned use for it this year.
All six First Nations that were impacted by the B.C. Timber Sales pest management plan were consulted as part of its development. Actually, in clear contradiction to what the member’s claim was last Friday, the Squamish First Nation put out a public statement confirming that they were, in fact, consulted. They have agreed to the current plan. There will be no glyphosate use in that region.