Province will not appeal landmark Supreme Court decision ruling in favour of Blueberry River First Nations: Attorney General
Members of the Blueberry River First Nation and their supporters celebrate a recent court ruling in downtown Vancouver on Thursday, July 8, 2021.
FORT ST. JOHN -- The Province of B.C. will not appeal the landmark court ruling halting new industrial development that doesn't first have the approval of a First Nation whose territory has long been the focus of resource development.
It’s being called a milestone for the Blueberry River First Nation and Treaty 8 Territory in northeastern British Columbia.
“The court's decision was clear that the Province must improve its assessment and management of the cumulative impact of industrial development on Blueberry River First Nations’ Treaty rights, and to ensure these constitutional rights are protected,” said B.C.’s Attorney General, David Eby.
The Supreme Court of British Columbia ruling in favour of the First Nation saying, the B.C. government infringed on the Blueberry River First Nation’s treaty rights by allowing decades of industrial activites that had been guaranteed under Treaty 8.
The ruling said the years of aggressive industrial development was promoted by successive provincial governments.
The B.C. Supreme Court found the provincial government breached the Treaty 8 agreement signed with the nation more than 120 years ago because it allowed development such as forestry and natural gas extraction without the community's approval.
It found the province failed its treaty promise to maintain the nation's rights to hunt, fish and trap without interference.
Chief Marvin Yaheh of the Blueberry River First Nation, said earlier this month that industrial development without regard for the nation's treaty rights has been going on for decades.
“This confirmation from the court proves that our treaty has not been honoured,” he said. “There is a lot of work to do. We will not accept anything less than full enforcement of our rights as recognized by the courts.”
The ruling is expected to significantly impact current industries such as oil and gas operations in the region. The ruling prevents the province from authorizing activities that would continue to add to the cumulative impacts that would continue to violate the Treaty 8 agreement.
“For years, Blueberry members have witnessed the destruction of our territory by provincial policies that actively support and promote industrial development at the expense of our way of life,” said Yahey.
The ruling says the Province must work with Blueberry in a new way to develop an approach that respects and preserves the territory and recognizes Blueberry’s rights and way of life.
“We have always sought collaborative dialogue on these matters with Blueberry River First Nations outside of the courts, and we have reached out to Blueberry River First Nations in order to start the negotiation process, which all parties, including industry, local government and stakeholders, are keen to pursue in earnest,” said Eby.