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‘It’s a good day’ : Blueberry River First Nations signs historic agreement with B.C. government

The B.C. government and Blueberry River First Nation have signed an historic agreement, giving the nation more say over how their lands will be used in natural resource projects.

The agreement responds to a Supreme Court ruling in June 2021 that said the province violated the nation's treaty rights by allowing development that over the years has negatively impacted their land, which is north of Fort St. John.

It's the first time a case has explored the cumulative impacts of projects.

The deal sets out compensation, reparations and a way forward for new natural resource projects. It also sets limits on new oil and gas projects in terms of how much land can be disturbed. The goal will be to reduce the blast radius of such projects.

Wildlife protections will be implemented using the expertise of the Blueberry River nation A process is being developed where both the nation and the province will make land-use decisions. B.C. also agrees to protect old growth in the region, and reduce timber harvesting

Chief Judy Desjarlais, of the Blueberry River First Nations, was emotional after signing the agreement.

"It's been a long road but it means a brighter future for our children, grandchildren and next seven generations," Desjarlais said at a news conference in Prince George.

The Blueberry River First Nations launched its legal case in 2015. The crux of the argument was that ongoing development no longer allowed the nation to live off the land, a right established in Treaty 9 signed in 1899.

Desjarlais went on to say the nation's land was "almost cleared out" due to clear cutting and development and no one was listening to elders who said they were unable to hunt and fish. It got to the point, she added, that the nation and elders decided they had to speak up, despite being told for years that their concerns would fall on deaf ears.

"It's been a long battle," added Desjarlais, saying members of the nation watched as the land they depend up was broken apart piece by piece.


The deal doesn't limit how much oil and gas activity can be undertaken, but it does limit how much new land can be disturbed.

Premier David Eby said the message to the industry was that they'd have to be "innovative."

"The oil and gas industry is going to have to find ways to work with less land disturbance. the agreement is not a cap on production it's a cap on land disturbance," Eby added.

Izwan Ismail, the CEO of Petronas Canada, called the deal an important step. He said, through conversations with indigenous leaders, the company has come to understand the need to heal the land.

He also spoke about the LNG Canada project, saying work on that can now proceed. The project relies on gas fracked in northeastern B.C. where the nation is located.

There's an expectation other nations may also sign on to similar agreements. Top Stories

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