BC Government: Wildlife Act changes support reconciliation

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BC Government: Wildlife Act changes support reconciliation

by ahnationtalk on March 10, 202296 Views

March 9, 2022

VICTORIA – The B.C. government has introduced legislation to ensure greater collaboration and reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples in the management of wildlife in the province.

“Wildlife is vitally important to Indigenous Peoples but for too long their voices were not being heard, and they had too little input into how this precious resource was being managed,” said Katrine Conroy, Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development. “For the first time, the changes we’re making will ensure Indigenous ancestral knowledge of wildlife is considered, and that will mean a stronger and more effective relationship for wildlife stewardship with Indigenous Peoples.”

The foundational laws for managing wildlife in B.C. came into effect almost 200 years ago. Updates to laws over the years have reflected the changing nature of wildlife management in response to social values, common law and scientific advancement. For the first time, the legislation is being amended to integrate Indigenous perspectives.

“Generations of traditional knowledge about the hunting grounds, a court case that took three years to get to the Supreme Court and after all this time, our rights are confirmed,” said Kukpi7 te Esk’etemc, Chief Fred Robbins. “With this project, we wish to be part of the solution and protect the wildlife that is a right given to First Nations by the Creator. For time immemorial as long as the grass grows, wind blows and water flows.”

Bill 14, the Wildlife Amendment Act, 2022, brings in a requirement to consider Indigenous knowledge and establishes a process by which the Province can align its laws with protocol hunting agreements and traditions that have long existed. These changes complement the non-derogation provision recently added to the Interpretation Act. This ensures that the Wildlife Act does not negatively impact Aboriginal constitutional and treaty rights.

“Operationalizing the rights of Indigenous Peoples in British Columbia requires shifts in legislation, policy and practice,” said Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, president of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs. “The Wildlife Act amendments are one positive step, while much work is needed to steward and protect species and habitat for Indigenous Peoples. Moving forward, the government must continue to review the act in collaboration with Indigenous Peoples to ensure it is aligned with the United Nations Declaration on the Right of Indigenous Peoples and as part of its commitment to implement the Together for Wildlife Strategy.”

The Wildlife Act amendments are the first steps toward addressing key concerns from First Nations. The government will continue to review the act in collaboration with Indigenous Peoples.

A backgrounder follows.

Contact:

Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development
Media Relations
250 896-4320


BACKGROUNDER

Updates to Wildlife Act promote Indigenous interests

The Wildlife Act has not been changed to address Indigenous interests since 1966. As a result, the static nature of the legislation creates conflict with the recognition of the inherent rights of First Nations people under the Canadian Constitution Act, 1982.

The changes also support the Province’s commitment to the full adoption and implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Indigenous knowledge

A key change in the legislation is the recognition of Indigenous knowledge about wildlife. In this way, knowledge systems that are embedded in the culture and traditions of Indigenous Peoples and are based on observations and interactions with the environment can be respected and incorporated when decisions about wildlife management are being made under the Wildlife Act.

Sheltering

This change enables the minister and First Nations to enter into legally binding agreements on “sheltering.” Sheltering is the practice of a host First Nation permitting a guest First Nation to harvest wildlife within the host’s territory. Permission typically comes with conditions (such as who may hunt what species, when, where and by what means). When a First Nation enters into these agreements with the minister, it will bring provincial laws into alignment with the existing Indigenous laws. This change is expected to improve certainty around data collection and sharing of information on wildlife.

Consultation

Changes to the Wildlife Act were developed with Indigenous members from several First Nations and followed by consultation and engagement with all First Nations, the seven modern Treaty Nations and Indigenous-led organizations. Key wildlife and habitat organizations in B.C., including the BC Wildlife Federation, the BC Trappers Association and the Guide Outfitters Association of British Columbia, were also engaged.

Contact:

Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development
Media Relations
250 896-4320

Connect with the Province of B.C. at: news.gov.bc.ca/connect

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