-6 C
Fort St. John

Saulteau First Nation signs agreement with Province

Minister of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resources Steve Thomson, Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation John Rustad were in the Peace Region yesterday to formally sign an agreement with the Saulteau First Nation.

Peace River South MLA — who also serves as Minister of Education — Mike Bernier was also in attendance.

According to a bulletin from the Saulteau First Nation, Minister of Energy and Mines Bill Bennett was also invited to the signing, but did not attend.

- Advertisement -

In effect until 2024, the agreement with Saulteau First Nations, first announced in July, has two big priorities:

  • Building relationships between the Province and First Nations that are based on respect, recognition, and setting mutual goals
  • A focus on closing gaps in social programs and services within Aboriginal communities, and ensuring they can meaningfully participate in economic development.

Chief Nathan Parenteau has called this agreement ‘an important first step towards the recognition of our long-held Treaty rights.’

“I look forward to working with the ministers on implementing the agreement and other sustainable development initiatives. In the spirit of moving forward together, industry must also begin to respect our Treaty rights, listen to our voices, and work with us to find solutions, in the same meaningful way that the Province is doing.”

The agreement, which sets up the plan for managing lands and resources, some within the Peace-Moberly Tract, also provides a plan for the expansion of Klin-se-za protected area.

It is designed to provide a stronger role to the Saulteau First Nation in ‘the stewardship of wildlife resources, forest licence opportunities, and watershed planning,’ according to the BC government.

The Province and Saulteau First Nation will also hold regular meetings to create a ‘more collaborative and meaningful consultation process’ with respect to the development of natural resources and land management practices.

Natural resource development revenue and benefit sharing is another distinct part of the agreement, according to the BC government, and they say this agreement has the potential to provide significant new provincial funding and economic benefits to the Saulteau First Nations over the next 10 years — depending on the level of natural resource activity.

Saulteau First Nations are focused on using revenue sharing to enrich social programs and services that benefit community members, and will be identifying community projects to be funded under the agreement.

Back in the summer, John Rustad said Chief Nathan Parenteau and the Saulteau council are ‘showing leadership in the northeast,’ and said this agreement presents a model for future discussions between the Province and other Treaty 8 First Nations.

“This agreement reflects how responsible resource development can coexist with those treaty rights that benefit Saulteau First Nations members.”

A companion 10-year ‘Oil and Gas Consultation Agreement’ has also been signed by the BC government and Saulteau First Nations.

The agreement sets up a clear protocol for the Province and Saulteau First Nations to discuss natural gas tenures and permitting.