Paper: The New Realities of Doing Business: Indigenous Peoples and Natural Resources

Forestry Issues in British Columbia

March 10, 2006
Prepared By:    Murray Browne and Krista Robertson, Woodward & Company

“There is a problem about tenure that has not been attended to in the past. We are being asked to ignore the problem as others have ignored it. I am not willing to do that”

-Seaton J.A., in MacMillan Bloedel Ltd. v Mullin[1]

Many of the recent cases on aboriginal rights relating to forestry have come from British Columbia. There are important cases from elsewhere in the country but we have a particularly high concentration of forestry issues in B.C. This is primarily a function of the large number of First Nations in the province whose traditional territory includes tracts of forested land subject to provincially authorized logging, combined with a failure to resolve treaties in the province. In this paper, we do not propose to summarize all of the recent cases from B.C. Rather, we will touch on highlights that contribute to our main objective of relating the broad case law on forestry consultations to the reality on the ground. The specific focus of the paper will be Forest & Range Agreements (“FRA”). FRA’s are unique to B.C. and have played a significant role in forestry and First Nations issues in the province since 2003. On January 19, 2006, the Ministry of Forests issued a news release announcing that the 100th First Nation had signed an FRA with the Province. On January 31, 2006, the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs sent a letter to the Premier outlining its collective rejection of the most recent template of the FRA. The controversial story beneath FRA’s is a walk in the woods in B.C. From an aboriginal rights perspective, the Province still has some distance to go to see the forest for the trees.

[1] MacMillan Bloedel Ltd. v Mullin [1985] B.C.J. 2355
The full paper is available in a .doc download below.

Indian and Northern Affairs Canada Launches Geographic Portal

Indian and Northern Affairs Canada
November 16, 2005

Indian and Northern Affairs Canada celebrates International geographic information systems (GIS) day by launching an intra/internet geographic portal. This new Web site is making location based data and geographic map visualization available to Canadians and First Nations communities with an interest in geomatics. The INAC GeoPortal project, initiated by Corporate Services Information Management Branch (IMB) and developed in partnership with the INAC Geomatics community of practice and the GeoConnections Program, enables users to quickly view maps on line within a First Nations context.

The INAC GeoPortal is a new addition to the existing suite of federal geographic information portals. The GeoPortal provides access to numerous tools and services to address the requirements of a broad audience whether novice or experienced Geographic Information System (GIS) users, both internal and external, to INAC. Users can easily retrieve pre defined dynamic views of INAC maps and selected business information combined with geographic data from other government and private organizations.

The Intranet version of the Website allows geographers and GIS specialists to build upon the spatial infrastructure (tools, data and services) to quickly enable mapping, analysis and geographic visualization. Some common uses for digital map based information includes emergency response, monitoring of the environment, natural resources and land management, claims, transportation planning and asset management.

IMB supports and maintains the GeoPortal. The GeoPortal helps to support the activities of the department with regard to more effective decision making in land use and resource management ; negotiating land claim agreements to ensure certainty of title and land access; strengthening stewardship with regard to environmental management and supports the sustainable development of the North's natural resources.

About GeoConnections: GeoConnections is a national partnership program led by Natural Resources Canada to build the Canadian Geospatial Data Infrastructure (CGDI). The CGDI is an online resource ( that enables Canadians to use and combine geographic information (e.g., maps, satellite images) over the Internet to gain new insights into social, environmental, and economic issues. By enabling users to quickly view maps on-line within a First Nations context, the INAC Geoportal represents an important component of the CGDI.

Original Press Release, where you can access the GeoBrowser or search by Metadata.

For more information about this initiative, you may contact:

Indian and Northern Affairs Canada
Public Enquiries Contact Center
Information Management Branch
Corporate Information Management Directorate

  • E-mail: InfoPubs@ainc
  • Phone: (toll free) 1-800-567-9604
  • TTY: (toll free) 1-866-553-0554
  • Fax: 1-866-817-3977

Chief Leads Resurgent Homalco First Nation

Refusing to be ‘swept under the carpet, Chief Blaney won judgment against fish farming.

By Andrew Findlay

Published: April 5, 2005

When Darren Blaney strode into downtown Vancouver’s courtroom 51 in January, he was thinking about Church House Bay, his birthplace near the head of Bute Inlet.

Though the clapboard church and houses of that abandoned native village sit vacant, slowly being reclaimed by the wind and rain, the site lies at the centre of a resurgent Homalco First Nation. Blaney, 46 years old and energetic, is the Homalco chief. He is taking on the B.C. government and one of the largest fish farming companies in the world, claiming that his people have been ignored when it comes to deciding where, when and how to site fish farms in their traditional waters.

The court proceedings that brought Blaney to Vancouver in January marked only the latest battleground in that fight. It began in 2002 when Marine Harvest, a subsidiary of Dutch multinational Nutreco, hashed out a deal with Blaney’s predecessor to farm Pacific Spring salmon in Church House Bay, promising jobs and economic opportunities for the Homalco.

According to Blaney, just one band member is currently employed at the farm.

Battled Atlantic salmon plan

From the outset, the deal was not popular among most Homalco who shared concerns about the threat of sea lice, pollution and disease to the wild salmon that ply their ancestral waterways from the Southgate, Orford and Homathko rivers in Bute Inlet out to the open ocean. Last April, claiming that it was unable to farm Spring salmon profitably, Marine Harvest applied to the provincial government for a license that would allow them to restock the farm with controversial Atlantic salmon. The Homalco first heard about the application on July 20, 2004. According to Blaney, they spent the fall trying without success to get more information about what if any specific “fish health management plan” the government and Marine Harvest had to mitigate fish escapes, the spread of sea lice and damage to the marine environment from fish waste.

On Dec.17, 2004, literally hours before the band office was to close for Christmas, the Homalco were blindsided with news from the government that Marine Harvest's application had been approved a week earlier. While band council members were making holiday plans, the farm was being re-stocked with Atlantics.

Blaney responded swiftly by asking the courts for an injunction to block Marine Harvest from introducing Atlantics to Church House claiming that the government had failed to adequately consult the Homalco and address concerns about the environmental impacts.

On December 24, in a landmark decision the B.C. Supreme Court granted an interim injunction, putting the brake’s on Marine Harvest’s plans for Church House Bay, and ordered a judicial review of the approval.

Marine Harvest dutifully appealed but the BC Court of Appeal upheld the decision. Now a microscope has been focused on how the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries goes about approving controversial fish farms.

Injunction keyed off Haida decision

The injunction was significant for a couple of reasons. It was the first to be based on last November’s Supreme Court of Canada decision involving the Haida that said government’s must consult First Nations before allowing resource development that might impinge on aboriginal rights and title. But beyond legal matters, it was also a determined move by the Homalco people struggling to assert their interests and be heard by the mandarins in Victoria who are keen to promote fish farming as the economic saviour of the West Coast....

View full article and comments here

Courtenay-based Andrew Findlay is a regular contributor to The Tyee.


Taiwan: Council of Indigenous Peoples News Report

Project aiming to chart territories, borders of approximately 600 aboriginal communities in Taiwan gives status update.

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