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.