The B.C. Supreme Court ruled on June 29 that decades of industrial activity approved by the province in the Blueberry First Nations’ territory in northeastern B.C. had violated rights guaranteed to the community under Treaty 8.
“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,” David Eby said in a statement Wednesday.
“The Province recognizes that negotiation, rather than litigation, is the primary forum for achieving reconciliation and the renewal of the Crown-Indigenous relationship.”
The Blueberry River First Nations is one of the few Indigenous groups in B.C. with a formal treaty with the Crown.
The court found that development since then, “at an extensive scale” had cumulatively changed the territory to the point where there were “no longer sufficient and appropriate lands in Blueberry’s territory to allow for the meaningful exercise by Blueberry of its treaty rights.”
Within the First Nation’s 40,000 square kilometres of territory, there are currently 110,000 linear kilometres of roads, pipelines and transmission lines, and about 73 per cent of that land is within 250 metres of an industrial disturbance, the court found.
The ruling stated that B.C. had six months to stop authorizing activities in the territory that infringed the Blueberry Rivers First Nations’ rights, and ordered the government and the First Nation to negotiate a solution.