On Oct. 31, days after Bill 41, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act, was introduced in the BC legislature, Simpcw First Nation (Simpcw) issued a warning to other Indigenous Nations in the Province: “it’s likely lip service – nothing has changed”.
A recent press release from Simpcw states, “Minister Doug Donaldson (Forests, Lands, Natural Resources Operations and Rural Development) is expected to make his decision to approve Interfor’s purchase of Canfor’s forestry assets within Simpcw Territory for a price of $60 million. This is only the second transaction put forward to the Minister for approval since Bill 22 became law. Bill 22 is a clear opportunity for the Province to ensure not only that the public interest is protected from the monopolization of the forest resource, but that economic reconciliation with Indigenous communities is front and center as a matter of public policy”.
Shelly Loring, Chief of Simpcw, said, “Since the announcement back in June, we have worked diligently to put our interests on the table. We’ve had some good progress with Interfor and Canfor and are close to coming to an agreement that would bring benefit to our community and to the North Thompson valley.”
The missing piece is the Province: “The agreement is only economically viable if the Province is on board,” added Loring. “Our proposal is in the public interest: the transaction stays intact, we diversify the forestry industry in Kamloops TSA and reduce the further concentration in the hands of major licensees, create economic opportunity for our community and take on a management role of our title lands – it’s a win-win.”
The province has the tools in place to support Simpcw’s proposal and has made clear its commitment to obtaining free, prior and informed consent of Indigenous Nations.
Simpcw councillor Ron Lampreau said, “Despite this, the province has approached this matter the same way it has in the past – no real movement to advance reconciliation, they say they are committed, but so far, they aren’t willing to work outside their mandated program funding.”
“We have worked extremely hard to reach common ground with the licensees – all we need is for the province to support us, and this has not happened,”said Simpcw councillor Tina Donald.
“The Province will destroy the transaction and its relationship with Simpcw if it continues down this road.”
Simpcw Chief and Council advise they will be meeting with the Province next week.
“The Minister hasn’t made his decision yet – we will continue to urge the Province to come to the table in a good way and promote a resolution that is consistent with Bill 41 and beneficial for the region,” said Loring. “If that does not happen we will not hesitate to challenge a provincial decision in court if necessary.”