Forest products are mostly harvested from Crown land in B.C.

Aboriginal title upsets B.C. forest policy

Landmark case says Forest Act doesn't apply where title is proven, cancels Crown timber licence

VICTORIA – The Supreme Court of Canada’s decision upholding aboriginal title in the Nemiah Valley in B.C.’s Southern Interior has major implications for provincial government policy, and the most immediate may be to forest licences.

The ruling comes as the B.C. government considers the results of a province-wide consultation on converting volume-based timber cutting permits to area-based permits, to encourage longer-term forest stewardship by licence holders on Crown land.

About 40 per cent of B.C.’s timber is harvested under 180 volume-based forests licences on Crown land. Private land is not subject to these licences, and was also excluded from the Tsilhqot’in Nation aboriginal title case that struck down a forest harvest licence issued in 1983.

B.C. Attorney General Suzanne Anton said it will take some time for the province to consider amending the Forest Act and other legislation that has been affected by the decision.

More than 90% of B.C. is Crown land, and much of that is subject to forest licences as well as unresolved aboriginal land claims. In the Tsilhqot’in territory west of Williams Lake, the high court’s landmark ruling negates the cutting permits that triggered the legal case in 1983.

“Now that title has been established [in the Tsilhqot’in claim area], the timber on it no longer falls within the definition of ‘Crown timber’ and the Forest Act no longer applies,” wrote Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin in the unanimous judgment released June 26.

McLachlin wrote that the B.C. government can still enforce “general regulatory legislation” such as that dealing with pest invasions or forest fire control in areas of proven aboriginal title. But a timber licence in such an area is “a direct transfer of aboriginal property rights to a third party” that would have to be agreed to by aboriginal title holders or justified as an intrusion of their constitutional rights.

The judgment left it open to the B.C. government to amend the Forest Act so it conforms with aboriginal title as it is declared.

In recent years the province has begun negotiating resource sharing agreements with aboriginal communities, including forest tenures and shares of provincial royalties from mines.

Two weeks before the Tsilhqot’in judgment, the B.C. government announced a three-year “stewardship agreement” with five of its member communities.

The province is providing $670,000 per year for projects to address forest and wildlife effects from the mountain pine beetle epidemic in the region.

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Cold water swimming a morning ritual for Willows Beach crew

Group turned heads when they slow-walked into the Polar Plunge

South Vancouver Island B.C. Hydro Customers without power

Due to high winds nearly 3,900 B.C. Hydro customer will be out of power

Sidney signs off on 2020 budget with 1.79 per cent tax increase

Budget also includes additional funding for Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea

Search begins for two missing scouts near Sooke

Crews headed to Jordan River area after receiving call just after 2 p.m.

Scaffolding falls due to strong winds at Millstream Village Sunday afternoon

No injuries or vehicles damaged, according to West Shore RCMP

VIDEO: 2020 BC Winter Games wrap up in Fort St. John as torch passes to Maple Ridge

More than 1,000 athletes competed in the 2020 BC Winter Games

Massive early-morning blaze destroys Vancouver Island home

Firefighters from three departments called in to battle fire at unoccupied residence

Still six cases of COVID-19 in B.C. despite reports of Air Canada passenger: ministry

Health ministry wouldn’t comment on specific flight routes

Violent ends to past Indigenous protests haunt Trudeau government

Trudeau adopted a more assertive tone Friday, insisting the barricade must come down

VIDEO: Wounded Warrior Run leaves Port Hardy on eight-day trek down Vancouver island

The team’s fundraising goal this year is $250,000, which is double last year’s goal.

HIGHLIGHTS: Day one and two at the 2020 BC Winter Games

Athletes had sunny – but cold – weather to work with in Fort St. John

Most Read