British Columbia First Nations Strike Landmark Deals Governing Development on Their Ancestral Lands

Peace River Valley, the ancestral lands of the Blueberry River First Nations.

Peace River Valley, the ancestral lands of the Blueberry River First Nations. Jeffrey Wynne via Wikipedia

Two First Nations in Canada have forged historic agreements governing industrial development on their ancestral lands.

The Yaq̓it ʔa·knuqⱡi ‘it, also known as the Tobacco Plains Indian Band, have signed an agreement with NWP Coal Canada giving the First Nation veto power over a proposed mining project on their ancestral lands near Sparwood, British Columbia. Indigenous leaders will consider the full environmental impact of the project before granting their consent.

“For too long, Indigenous Nations have not been brought to the table in decision making directly affecting our rights and interests,” Yaq̓it ʔa·knuqⱡi ‘it Chief Heidi Gravelle said in a statement. “We look forward to working with NWP and the regulators as we exercise our full seat at the table as a decision maker in our own territories.”

Separately, the Blueberry River First Nations, also of British Columbia, have struck a deal with the provincial government that will limit logging and oil and gas drilling on their ancestral lands. As part of the agreement, British Columbia will create a $200 million fund to restore land disturbed by decades of industrial development. The Blueberry River First Nations will also receive $87.5 million in oil and gas revenue sharing over the next three years.

The deal follows a 2021 ruling by the Supreme Court of British Columbia, which found that damage from industrial development had violated Indigenous treaty rights. The court called for a new, collaborative agreement governing development in the region.

“This agreement provides a clear pathway to get the hard work started on healing and restoring the land,” Blueberry River First Nations Chief Judy Desjarlais said in a statement. “With the knowledge and guidance of our Elders, this new agreement will ensure there will be healthy land and resources for current and future generations to carry on our people’s way of life.”


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