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UBCIC Letter: Interim Agreement on Forest and Range Opportunities


Honourable Gordon Campbell
Premier of British Columbia
P.O. Box 9041 Stn Prov Govt
Victoria, B.C.  V8W 9E1

February 6, 2006

Dear Honourable Premier:

Re: Interim Agreement on Forest and Range Opportunities

The Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs’ Chiefs Council has reviewed the Interim Agreement on Forest and Range Opportunities (the “FRO”) proposed by the Province as a template from which to build agreements between B.C. and different First Nations communities.  Regrettably, the UBCIC is not able to support the FRO in its present form.  In several significant respects, the FRO falls short of fulfilling the promise represented by the New Relationship based on respect, recognition and accommodation of aboriginal title and rights.

The FRO retains features of the previous Forest Range Agreements that were unacceptable to our membership.  Mostly notably, provisions require that First Nations agree that the benefits provided under the FRO constitute interim accommodation of the economic component of the potential infringements of our aboriginal title and rights, as reflected in sections 4.2 and 6.5.  These provisions were included in the FRO absent any negotiations with First Nations about our entitlement based on the value and benefits derived from our forest resources by others, or the impact of commercial logging on our traditional economies and way of life.

Important provisions of the FRO ‑ particularly sections 1.1, 1.2, 1.4 and 4 ‑ continue to exclude First Nations from strategic, administrative and operational decisions by setting out a consultative process which does not provide for any collaborative or co-operative assessment and planning and does not provide for the incorporation and reflection of our own laws and values into land and forest use decisions.

The UBCIC is particularly concerned about the following features of the FRO (as reflected in the attached Chiefs Council resolution, 2006-06):

(a)        The benefits provided under the FRO do not constitute an acceptable standard for economic accommodation for the infringement of aboriginal rights and title in the forestry sector generally.  As stated in Clause 1.9, the revenue component reflects the present budget limitations of the Minister of Forests.

(b)        This economic opportunity is not a substitute for addressing the economic component of aboriginal title in the context of the four Agreements contemplated by the New Relationship in the areas of land use planning, management, tenuring and resource revenue sharing, and in the conclusion of Treaties.

(c)        The principle of recognition of aboriginal title is fundamental to the success of the New Relationship and provisions in the FRO, notably 11.5, is to the opposite effect.

(d)        To be viable, the allocation under the FRO must include long-term tenure of range and economically viable timber, and not be limited beetle susceptible stands, which First Nations expect will be addressed by B.C. through the negotiation of a separate agreement (ie. other than the FRO).

We take this opportunity to highlight these concerns, and invite you to address them.  The UBCIC recognizes that your government has made a serious commitment to ensuring that the policy shifts necessary to build and implement the new relationship we collectively envision.  We applaud and are appreciative of your government’s work to date, and your own personal dedication to real and lasting progress on this issue. 

The proposed FRO template requires significant changes to reflect the New Relationship.  We are writing to request your commitment to working together to amend the proposed FRO to reflect the relationship we all envision which recognizes First Nations’ aboriginal title and rights and a true government-to-government relationship.

Sincerely,

[ORIGINAL SIGNED BY UBCIC EXECUTIVE]

Chief Stewart Phillip

President

Chief Robert Shintah

Vice-President

Chief Mike Retasket

Secretary-Treasurer

cc:
BC First Nations
BC Leadership Council
Minister Tom Christensen, Ministry of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation
Minister Rich Coleman, Ministry of Forests

Attachments:
UBCIC Resolution 2006-06, Interim Forest and Range Opportunities
Interim Forest and Range Opportunities document (January 12, 2006)

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