Forest products are mostly harvested from Crown land in B.C.

Aboriginal title upsets B.C. forest policy

Landmark case says Forest Act doesn't apply where title is proven, cancels Crown timber licence

VICTORIA – The Supreme Court of Canada’s decision upholding aboriginal title in the Nemiah Valley in B.C.’s Southern Interior has major implications for provincial government policy, and the most immediate may be to forest licences.

The ruling comes as the B.C. government considers the results of a province-wide consultation on converting volume-based timber cutting permits to area-based permits, to encourage longer-term forest stewardship by licence holders on Crown land.

About 40 per cent of B.C.’s timber is harvested under 180 volume-based forests licences on Crown land. Private land is not subject to these licences, and was also excluded from the Tsilhqot’in Nation aboriginal title case that struck down a forest harvest licence issued in 1983.

B.C. Attorney General Suzanne Anton said it will take some time for the province to consider amending the Forest Act and other legislation that has been affected by the decision.

More than 90% of B.C. is Crown land, and much of that is subject to forest licences as well as unresolved aboriginal land claims. In the Tsilhqot’in territory west of Williams Lake, the high court’s landmark ruling negates the cutting permits that triggered the legal case in 1983.

“Now that title has been established [in the Tsilhqot’in claim area], the timber on it no longer falls within the definition of ‘Crown timber’ and the Forest Act no longer applies,” wrote Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin in the unanimous judgment released June 26.

McLachlin wrote that the B.C. government can still enforce “general regulatory legislation” such as that dealing with pest invasions or forest fire control in areas of proven aboriginal title. But a timber licence in such an area is “a direct transfer of aboriginal property rights to a third party” that would have to be agreed to by aboriginal title holders or justified as an intrusion of their constitutional rights.

The judgment left it open to the B.C. government to amend the Forest Act so it conforms with aboriginal title as it is declared.

In recent years the province has begun negotiating resource sharing agreements with aboriginal communities, including forest tenures and shares of provincial royalties from mines.

Two weeks before the Tsilhqot’in judgment, the B.C. government announced a three-year “stewardship agreement” with five of its member communities.

The province is providing $670,000 per year for projects to address forest and wildlife effects from the mountain pine beetle epidemic in the region.

 

Just Posted

Son of missing Oak Bay woman asks for continued public support

‘Because she is still out there, somewhere’

Two people rescued after falling from lifeboat at Ogden Point

Crew members of the Explorer of the Seas cruise ship fell into the water Thursday night

Online blasting video helps ease Sooke residents concerns

Complaints of dust ongoing since 2017

Death-penalty decision delayed for alleged cold-case killer

William Talbott is charged here in the 1987 slaying of a young Victoria-area couple

Here’s what you need to know about Day 1 at the BC Games

All 18 events kick off on the track, riding ring, fields, courts and lake in the Cowichan Valley

VIDEO: How to throw a frisbee

Ultimate frisbee player Amy Mackay shows off the proper technique

Site C dam project plagued by problems: expert

E. Harvey Elwin expresses concern about internal BC Hydro and government documents

Seal attacks kayakers off northern Vancouver Island

‘It has to be one chance in a million of this happening.’

Special Olympic athletes take on BC Games during special anniversary

Known as the Global Day of Inclusion, July 20 marks the first Special Olympics in 1968 in Chicago

Fundraiser to help mom of jogger detained after crossing U.S. border

Cedella Roman, 19, was held in U.S. after accidentally crossing border in South Surrey

Okanagan Wildfires: The latest on wildfires and evacuations

A Friday morning look at the major wildfires impact the Okanagan and Similkameen.

UPDATED: 1,500 residents on evacuation alert as Peachland under state of emergency

The Mount Eneas wildfire has forced an evacuation alert of 596 properties

Most Read