A prosperous Northeast B.C. benefits us all. We must manage and use our resources sustainably.
On June 29, 2021 the B.C. Supreme Court ruled that the British Columbia Government breached Blueberry River First Nation’s Treaty 8 rights by over-developing land in its territory.
The Court ordered the B.C. Government to stop allowing new development in the way that it has been, and ordered Blueberry River and the B.C. Government to work out land management rules that protect Blueberry River’s Treaty rights.
Since the Court’s decision, the B.C. Government has honoured the ruling and has stopped issuing new permits for new development that would further infringe its treaty rights. On July 28, 2021, the B.C. government announced it would not appeal the Court’s ruling, meaning the government and Blueberry River must work together to implement the Court’s ruling. This requires establishing protected areas, stronger environmental standards for future development, wildlife protection, and extensive restoration, so the land can heal.
A prosperous northeast benefits us all. But prosperity means more than just profit. It means continuing our way of life in a healthy environment that can sustain us for generations to come. In order for the northeast to remain prosperous, we must manage our resources sustainably, together.
What Is Treaty 8?
Treaty 8 is the binding legal agreement that sets out the basis upon which colonial settlement would be allowed in territories that had been occupied and relied upon since time immemorial by Indigenous peoples.
The Treaty was negotiated between representatives of the Canadian government and Indigenous Nations. This resulted in a formal agreement on June 21, 1899 between First Nations of Northern Alberta, Northwestern Saskatchewan, the Southwest portion of the Northwest Territories, and the Crown, with additional agreement with the Nations of Northeast British Columbia following after.
The Treaty sets out continuing rights and obligations on all sides.
The Canadian and Provincial governments are permitted the right to “take up” land from time to time for settlement and development, however this right is subject to (subordinate to) the over-arching essential promise in the Treaty that the Indigenous way of life, centered around hunting, trapping, fishing and the many cultural activities that support that, are to be protected—"as long as the sun shines and rivers flow.”
This means, a healthy environment upon which these rights depend, must be protected.
Treaty rights and Aboriginal rights (commonly referred to as Indigenous rights) are recognized and affirmed in Section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982 and are also a key part of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples which the Government of Canada has committed to adopt.
Treaty No. 8, encompassing a landmass of approximately 840,000 kilometres, is home to 39 First Nations communities, including 23 Alberta First Nations, 3 Saskatchewan First Nations, 6 Northwestern Territories First Nations, and 8 British Columbia First Nations.
The true spirit and intent of this Treaty was based upon principles of law, respect, honesty and acceptance.
For more information about Treaty 8, visit the Treaty 8 Tribal Association website.
Honouring the Treaty 8 Relationship
Indigenous peoples have lived on the land we now call Canada for thousands of years, with their own unique cultures, identities, traditions, languages and institutions.
Early partnerships between Indigenous nations and colonial governments were forged through treaties, as well as trade and military alliances, and were based on mutual respect and co-operation. Over many centuries, these relationships were eroded by colonial and paternalistic policies that were enacted into laws.
Treaties provide a framework for living together and sharing the land Indigenous peoples traditionally occupied. These agreements provide foundations for ongoing co-operation and partnership as we move forward together to advance reconciliation.
Honouring the treaty relationship and negotiating new treaties based on the recognition of rights, respect, co-operation and partnership, is key to achieving lasting reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.
Learn more about historic and modern treaties in Canada, treaty rights and the treaty relationship from Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada (CIRNAC).
What did the Court find?
The B.C. government has breached Blueberry River’s Treaty rights by allowing so much development that they can no longer meaningfully carry on their way of life in the territories they have traditionally relied on.
The Court ruling means the B.C. government must stop permitting projects under the old rules in Blueberry River’s territory and work with them to build new rules for land management that recognize and respect Blueberry Rivers’ Treaty rights.
The cumulative impacts to the land and wildlife have displaced Blueberry River members from areas upon which they have relied for generations, impairing the ability to meaningfully continue an Indigenous way of life, centred on hunting, trapping, fishing, that is reliant upon a healthy environment.
As a result of the Court’s ruling, the B.C. government is required to work with Blueberry River to address the cumulative impacts on their lands. Fixing the problem will involve significant changes to provincial laws and regulations, extensive restoration, and land protections.
More specifically, this is a new and essential model for land management that is based upon maintaining a long term sustainable balance of indigenous culture and way of life, healthy environment, with space for economic activity that is a blend of lighter footprint development and extensive restoration.
These restoration and land protection requirements will lead to projects and jobs for everyone in the Northeast for years to come.
What is the Implementation Agreement?
On January 18, 2023 Blueberry River First Nations and the Province of B.C. announced an Implementation Agreement in response to the 2021 B.C. Supreme Court decision.
The Agreement, signed by Blueberry and B.C., pledges both parties to work together on a new approach to land and resource stewardship in Blueberry’s claim area.
This joint approach will address cumulative impacts to the land from decades of industrial development, and it will ensure the protection of Blueberry’s Treaty rights now and for future generations.
The Agreement balances Indigenous Treaty rights and the healing of the environment with a sustainable regional economy.
There will be a lot of changes on the land in Blueberry’s claim area, particularly in natural resource management, and it will take time for industry to adapt. Some changes will happen immediately, others will take longer. This paradigm shift will require everyone to think differently.
Together, Blueberry River First Nations, the B.C. Provincial government and industry stakeholders will build a positive future for everyone in the Northeast.
March 3 2015
June 28 2016
May 27 2019
June 29 2021
July 28 2021
Oct 7, 2021
Jan 18, 2023
2023 - Onward
Blueberry River First Nations ancestors sign Treaty 8.
2012 - 2016
March 3, 2015
June 28, 2016
May 27, 2019
June 29, 2021
July 28, 2021
October 7, 2021
January 18, 2023
2023 - Onward