First Nations, government and industry leaders gathered in Lheidli T’enneh territory to discuss opportunities in the resource sector – and what corporations need to do in the future.
Wei Wai Kum Chief Chris Roberts told the industry leaders in attendance that the First Nations need to be included projects because the land belongs to them.
“The recognition of our rights and our title and the fact the territories you’re all operating, where you have an interest, where the government the last 150 or 200 years to manage it, it is ours,” he said.
“It belongs to the nation in the territory where you live and play and work, and that acknowledgement and recognition is the foundation that leads to how we are going to be a part of it.”
A similar message was sent by the chief of the host community. In an interview with APTN News, Dolleen Logan said the community made a land declaration last year which stated their territory around Prince George has never been ceded through treaty or war, but they remain open to business opportunities and partnerships.
“Come see us,” she said. “I want all of them to feel comfortable and come to the First Nations and say we are here, that’s what I want out of this. I want government and industry to come to Lheidli T’enneh first. This is Lheidli T’enneh territory as in our declaration, come to us first.”
At the forum, BC First Nations Forestry Council took part in a panel to talk about ideas for the province’s forestry sector. Its CEO Lennard Joe said the industry and First Nations will need to work together to grow.
“You’re looking at being able to grow in a healthy way, you want good schools, you want paved roads, you want a hospital, we also need that, so it is the together thing, how to move forward and find the solutions to survive, well we have to modernize,” he said.
The forum moved forward with Cheslatta Carrier Nation that shared its past challenges and recent successes with mining giant Rio Tinto.
Leaders from Haisla Nation, Saulteau First Nations and Wei Wai Kum First Nations had a panel discussion on progressive Indigenous businesses.
The forum comes on the heals of an announcement from Canfor on Jan. 11 that the company is permanently closing its mill in Prince George putting 300 people out of work.
The industry is struggling at the moment.
During the forum, B.C. Premier David Eby announced $90 million over three years to help the forest industry.
Natural resources such as forestry, fishing, mining and oil and gas extraction make up a large part of the province’s economy, accounting for seven per cent of its gross domestic product (GDP) according to a B.C financial and economic review last year.