Building Pillars of Certainty in an Uncertain World
RPF Manager, Land Use
British Columbia’s coastal forest industry and First Nations have spent many years developing the relationships we hold today. We are proud of these relationships. This year’s Supreme Court of Canada Tsilhoqut’in ruling has provided us with the unique opportunity to further examine and reflect on how far we’ve come and the direction we want take for the future.
Since the ruling, we have had a number of discussions that have been focused on increasing certainty – for both First Nations and coastal forestry. We’ve come to identify certainty as consisting of three major “pillars” that include: relationships, clear process and consistent decision making.
Our shared goal in aligning and growing our business to business relationships with First Nations is to further enhance consultation and accommodation for First Nations using the Haida test as the benchmark. We believe that this can be accomplished through: ensuring the appropriate people are engaged in consultation, better coordination on the timing of information sharing and consultation, and clearer and more consistent direction to designated decision makers (DDMs). Industry can improve dialogue on linkages between strategic and operational decisions and First Nations interests, and close the loop by providing follow-up information and opportunity for discussion on assessment of how forest operations went after completion.
Clear process and consistent decision making is paramount to ensuring certainty for our industry. This is where we aim to collaborate closely with the provincial government and First Nations. In exploring the possibilities of our new operational landscape post Tsilhqot’in, we believe the way to increase industry certainty is through consistent direction to designated decision makers (DDMs) in the permitting process (referrals and approvals). The review of the provincial strength of claim assessment process combined with the development of a new government strategic framework for treaty and reconciliation would go a long way in providing this needed, consistent direction.
Whatever changes we implement going forward to increase certainty must be respectful of the needs of First Nations, meet the Crown’s legal obligations and support our industry to fulfill its responsibilities to communities and shareholders. We believe success is one in which our future relationships are built on mutual respect and trust. This is the goal that the Province, First Nations and the forest industry all share.