B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell gets acquainted with Tsawwassen First Nation Chief Kim Baird’s 10-month-old daughter Sophia, husband Steve and four-year-old Amy at the B.C. legislature before a ceremony to endorse the Tsawwassen Treaty, Oct. 15, 2007. (Sharon Tiffin/Black Press)

B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell gets acquainted with Tsawwassen First Nation Chief Kim Baird’s 10-month-old daughter Sophia, husband Steve and four-year-old Amy at the B.C. legislature before a ceremony to endorse the Tsawwassen Treaty, Oct. 15, 2007. (Sharon Tiffin/Black Press)

Indigenous consent comes first and last for B.C. industrial projects

Environment minister can still approve permits without consent

Former Tsawwassen First Nation chief Kim Baird wasn’t born when the causeway and artificial island for B.C.’s biggest ferry terminal started construction in the late 1950s, but the story of its impact on the marine environment and traditional fishing village life remains vivid today.

“The way our elders tell it, the guy constructing the causeway knocked on the chief’s door,” Baird said at a forum on the province’s new Indigenous rights law at the recent B.C. Natural Resources Forum. “That’s how we found out, because the land had been expropriated through the Indian Agent.”

Baird described the impact of the ferry terminal and the adjacent Deltaport coal and container terminal in a 2007 speech to the B.C. legislature, when she led the Tsawwassen First Nation in the signing of the first modern-day treaty.

“Today we have a tiny postage stamp of a reserve, a small fraction of a percentage of our traditional territory fronting a dead body of water, trapped between two massive industrial operations,” she said. “The ferry causeway, with its millions of cars and trucks, dissects our reserve to the south. And Deltaport, with its 24/7 coal and container traffic, coats our houses with diesel particulate. Trucks and trains keep us awake at night.”

With its treaty’s substantial land and cash settlement, the Tsawwassen First Nation has developed Tsawwassen Mills shopping mall and further rail business to add to the water slide and other enterprises it has built to create employment. Now a consultant on Indigenous projects, Baird says there have been many successful agreements in B.C. that respect Indigenous land and treaty rights, without changing legislation to require it.

Also speaking to the forum by video conference Jan. 27, Chief Corrina Leween of the Cheslatta Carrier Nation didn’t detail the disruption caused by another 1950s project, construction of the Kenney Dam. Alcan dammed the Nechako River to power its aluminum smelter at Kitimat, and the flooding displaced the Cheslatta people to 17 small reserves around Francois Lake, south of Burns Lake.

But Leween was clear that the NDP government’s changes to environmental assessment give Indigenous people the first call on a project, and it’s up to Canada and B.C. to meet the terms of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP). B.C. is the first North American jurisdiction to legislate its principle of “free, prior and informed consent” for pipelines, mines, dams and other development.

“The government has now made it provincial law that resource projects require our consent to move forward,” Leween said. “If our nations don’t have the capacity to conduct our own due diligence, to retain our own lawyers and advisors, to provide our own environmental assessment, and to meaningfully consult with our members, then we are not able to provide an informed consent.”

Kevin O’Callaghan, an Indigenous specialist with Vancouver law firm Fasken, told the forum there are two legal camps on the effect of imposing UNDRIP on Canadian and B.C. law. “Either it means that governments must consult with a goal of obtaining consent, but can proceed without consent, or that governments must obtain consent,” O’Callaghan said.

Murray Rankin, a law professor, former MP and B.C.’s new minister of Indigenous relations, was not available for an interview. His office issued a statement confirming that the Environment Assessment Act changes introduced more than two years ago were to conform with UNDRIP by seeking Indigenous consent at two points when project proponents apply for permits.

“The first is early in the process at the readiness decision phase if the recommendation from the chief executive assessment officer or minister is to exempt or terminate the project from the environmental assessment process,” the ministry said. “The second point is near the end of the process on whether or not a project should receive an environmental assessment certificate.”

A ministry fact sheet states: “Ministers must take these decisions into consideration, but retain final decision-making. They must provide reasons if their decision does not align with the decision of participating Indigenous nations.”

The changes to B.C.’s environmental assessment process “turn it on its head,” Environment Minister George Heyman told reporters when the amendments were tabled in the B.C. legislature in November 2018. “Get those issues surfaced early and move ahead so that good, sustainable projects will get to the finish line so British Columbia communities can benefit, as can Indigenous peoples, from good jobs that are sustainable with respect to the environment.”

2018: B.C. government overhauls environmental assessment

2016: Tsawwassen Mills mall starts hiring for 3,000 positions

One of the problems still unsolved for Heyman, Rankin and four other cabinet ministers involved with resource development, is what to do when affected Indigenous communities disagree on a project. They may also disagree on whose territory is affected when land claims overlap without treaties, as they do in much of B.C.

B.C. and Ottawa still face a dispute in Wet’suwet’en territory over the Coastal Gaslink pipeline, which is supported by all elected Wet’suwet’en councils and the federal and provincial governments, but opposed by a small group of hereditary chiefs.

Premier John Horgan has stated repeatedly that the Wet’suwet’en people have to determine their own official position, as LNG Canada and its pipeline, the largest private sector investment in Canadian history, continues to be built across northern B.C.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC legislatureBC politicsUNDRIP

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

Just Posted

An Interior Health nurse administers Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines to seniors and care aids in Kelowna on Tuesday, March 16, 2021. (Phil McLachlan/Kelowna Capital News)
105 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health

Just over 8,000 new vaccine doses administered in the region for a total of 158,000 to date

Sand, sandbags will be available at three different locations for Mill Creek for property owners. (Black Press Media file photo)
City prepares for possible Mill Creek flooding

The City of Kelowna is providing sand at three different locations for property owners near Mill Creek

A still from the video taken of a violent arrest on May 30, 2020 in downtown Kelowna. (File)
Kelowna Mountie charged with assault for caught-on-camera violent arrest

Const. Siggy Pietrzak was filmed punching a suspected impaired driver at least 10 times during an arrest

(Amandalina Letterio - Capital News)
Kelowna demonstrators show support for Vancouver Island logging activists

Two Kelowna men stood atop a pedestrian bridge on Harvey Avenue to raise awareness about old-growth forests

(Pexels photo)
Okanagan film boom owes to industry’s strong pandemic response: Sandhu

Vernon-Monashee MLA Harwinder Sandhu lauded the local film industry’s adaptation to the pandemic

Arlene Howe holds up a picture of her son, Steven, at a memorial event for drug overdose victims and their families at Kelowna’s Rotary Beach Park on April 14. Steven died of an overdose at the age of 32 on Jan. 31, 2015. (Aaron Hemens - Kelowna Capital News)
Moms Stop the Harm members placed crosses Wednesday morning, April 14, on Rotary Beach in memory of children lost to drug overdoses. (Aaron Hemens - Capital News)
Kelowna mothers remember children lost to the opioid crisis

It has been five years since illicit drug deaths was announced a public health emergency

Demonstrators at the legislature on April 14 called on the province to decriminalize drug possession and provide widespread access to regulated safe supply across B.C. (Jake Romphf/News Staff)
Rally calls for decriminalization, safe supply on 5th anniversary of overdose emergency declaration

From 2016 to the end of February, 7,072 British Columbians died due to overdose

A Keremeos family lost their home after a fire shortly before midnight on April 13. No injuries were reported. (Contributed)
Keremeos home destroyed in late-night fire

The family inside was unharmed

Naloxone
Op/Ed: Interior Health CEO speaks on five years of strides and challenges in overdose crisis

In 2020, close to 4,000 people across IH had access to opioid medications

Somewhere in the pack being celebrated by his teammates is Vernon Vipers forward Zack Tonelli, who scored in overtime Wednesday afternoon, April 14, to give the Snakes a 6-5 win over the Salmon Arm Silverbacks in B.C. Hockey League pod play at Kal Tire Place. (Liza Mazurek - Vernon Vipers Photography)
Vernon Vipers bite Salmon Arm Silverbacks in OT

Snakes blow 5-3 third-period lead, rally in extra time for 6-5 pod play result over rivals

(Government of Canada)
Liberal MP caught stark naked during House of Commons video conference

William Amos, in Quebec, appeared on the screens of his fellow members of Parliament completely naked

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

New parking meters have been installed on Main Street, Ellis Street, Front Street, Nanaimo Avenue and Padmore Avenue in Penticton. (City of Penticton photo)
Pay parking now in effect in downtown Penticton

A spot downtown will now cost you $2 per hour

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, Feb. 1, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count jumps to 1,168 Wednesday, nearly 400 in hospital

Now 120 coronavirus patients in intensive care, six more deaths

Most Read