British Columbia

B.C. won't appeal landmark First Nation court victory

The judgment issued June 29 by B.C. Supreme Court justice Emily Burke sided with the Blueberry River First Nation which had argued that the constant approval of new energy projects in the region infringed on treaty rights meant to protect its way of life.

B.C. Supreme Court found approval of energy projects in Treaty 8 territory is 'death by a thousand cuts'

Blueberry River Chief Marvin Yahey speaks with other elected officials from Treaty 8 First Nations outside the B.C. Supreme courthouse on July 8, 2021. (Blueberry River First Nation/David Suzuki Foundation)

The B.C. government says it will not be appealing a landmark court case that found unchecked industrial development in northeastern B.C. violates the treaty rights of the Blueberry River First Nation.

The judgment issued June 29 by B.C. Supreme Court justice Emily Burke sided with the First Nation which had argued that the constant approval of new energy projects in the region infringed on treaty rights meant to protect its way of life.

Burke characterized it as "death by a thousand cuts."

At a media event in July, Blueberry River Chief Marvin Yahey was joined by other Treaty 8 First Nations leaders in Vancouver, where they urged the province not to appeal the case as a show of its commitment to reconciliation and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People.

Instead, Yahey said First Nations in northeastern B.C. should be partners in the economic development of the region.

"If this is done right, there's plenty of work for everyone," Yahey said.

In a statement released Wednesday, Attorney General David Eby said the province would be following that advice.

"The court's decision was clear that the Province must improve its assessment and management of the cumulative impact of industrial development on Blueberry River First Nations' Treaty rights, and to ensure these constitutional rights are protected," he said in the statement.  

"The Province recognizes that negotiation, rather than litigation, is the primary forum for achieving reconciliation and the renewal of the Crown-Indigenous relationship."

Eby said the province has reached out to Blueberry River in order to start negotiations on how to move forward.

WATCH | Blueberry River First Nation lays out its plan for economic development after landmark court victory

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Andrew Kurjata

CBC Prince George | @akurjata

Andrew Kurjata is an award-winning journalist covering Northern British Columbia for CBC Radio and cbc.ca, situated in unceded Lheidli T'enneh territory in Prince George. You can email him at andrew.kurjata@cbc.ca. You can also send encrypted messages using Signal to 250.552.2058.

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