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Coastal First Nations, Province expand work together to protect environment, grow regional economy

The B.C. government and Coastal First Nations, an alliance of eight First Nations on the north and central coast and Haida Gwaii, have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to continue and expand their work to protect the environment and boost the regional economy.

“We look forward to working with the Province to rebuild a coastal economy, especially in these challenging COVID-19 times,” said Chief Marilyn Slett, president, Coastal First Nations. “As we continue our work towards reconciliation, it is imperative we continue to strengthen our government-to-government relationship. An integral part of our work together includes the Province’s commitment to supporting carbon-credit sales and the world-class work of our stewardship offices and guardian watchmen.”

The MOU builds on a Reconciliation Protocol, signed in 2009 to protect the Great Bear Rainforest and develop a sustainable economy. The new agreement outlines a long-term vision for B.C.’s mid- and northern coastal areas, guided by a shared belief in reconciliation, fiscal self-reliance and a collective responsibility to manage the natural environment in the face of climate change. This MOU provides a framework for continuing to protect the environment and increased economic development opportunities for Coastal First Nations communities.

“This MOU builds on the positive and constructive relationship between the Province and Coastal First Nations and our commitment to advancing reconciliation together,” said Scott Fraser, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation. “It shows how we can work together to protect the environment while building an economy that works for everyone.”

Under the MOU, the Province and Coastal First Nations agree to pursue a conservation-based regional economy through a diverse set of initiatives to promote financial self-reliance. Initiatives include climate change and conservation, land and marine stewardship, including long-term marine use plans for B.C.’s north Pacific coast, economic development, connectivity and high-speed digital access.

The Province has also signed a new five-year agreement to purchase carbon offsets from the Great Bear Rainforest carbon-offset projects. These projects, which collectively cover an area greater than six million hectares, protect existing carbon stocks through ecosystem-based forestry management. Revenues from offset sales to the Province will directly contribute to economic self-sufficiency in the local communities.

The MOU is intended as a practical guide for incremental steps B.C. and Coastal First Nations can take together. Support for individual projects, such as shellfish aquaculture development, forestry management and high-speed digital connectivity, will be negotiated on a case-by-case basis.

Quotes:

Chief Arnold Clifton, Gitga’at First Nation –

“We look forward to creating more economic development opportunities in forestry, shellfish aquaculture, carbon credits, clean energy and connectivity. A healthy coastal economy isn’t just good for our communities, it is also good for surrounding communities and the province as a whole.”

Trevor Russ, vice-president, Council of the Haida Nation –

“We are at a watershed moment in protecting our waters and our lands. Our people have spent thousands of years protecting our territories. The MOU supports the work of stewardship offices and guardian watchmen. Our guardians are successful at protecting our lands and our waters simply because they are closer to the ground and respond quickly to changes or threats. Investing our own resources, through the sale of carbon credits, means that we are doing the work to keep our territories safe.”

George Heyman, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy –

“We’re working to advance reconciliation together with Coastal First Nations by supporting strong climate action that protects natural ecosystems, biodiversity and old-growth forests while increasing economic opportunities for Indigenous peoples and supporting our CleanBC plan. This agreement builds on our shared commitment with Coastal First Nations to protect the iconic Great Bear Rainforest for future generations.” 

Jennifer Rice, MLA for North Coast –

“The Coastal First Nations and the provincial government have successfully worked together for the betterment of everyone who lives on B.C.’s central and north coast and Haida Gwaii for many years. This MOU strengthens this partnership and creates a long-term pathway toward reconciliation.”

Quick Facts:

  • Coastal First Nations member nations are Wuikinuxv, Heiltsuk, Kitasoo/Xaixais, Nuxalk, Gitga’at, Gitxaala, Metlakatla, Old Massett, Skidegate and Council of the Haida Nation. Their collective territories span the central and north coast of B.C.
  • On Dec. 10, 2009, B.C. and Coastal First Nations members entered into the 2009 Reconciliation Protocol, one of the first such agreements in Canada, which focused on collaborative approaches to land and resource management and implementing economic initiatives.
  • The Reconciliation Protocol has been amended and renewed several times, most recently in 2016.

Learn More:

Coastal First Nations: https://coastalfirstnations.ca

View the MOU: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/environment/natural-resource-stewardship/consulting-with-first-nations/agreements/coastal_first_nations_mou_signed_-_july_2020.pdf

Reconciliation Protocol: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/environment/natural-resource-stewardship/consulting-with-first-nations/agreements/coastal_first_nationas_reconciliation_protocol_amending_agreement_mar_16_17_signed.pdf

Find out more about the Great Bear Rainforest: https://greatbearrainforest.gov.bc.ca 

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