How a big win for a First Nation in B.C. could bring change for resource development in Canada – CBC

Sander Duncanson

Oct 26, 2021

The Supreme Court of British Columbia sided with the Blueberry River First Nations in its ruling in Yahey v. British Columbia this summer, agreeing that the cumulative effect of years of significant and wide-ranging development in the area violated the nation’s Treaty 8 rights to hunt, fish and trap without interference. At trial, the Court agreed that more than 84% of Blueberry River territory is within 500 metres of an industrial disturbance. As a result of the ruling, the province must work with Blueberry River on land management and the process for dealing with applications for future development in a way that respects the First Nation’s treaty rights. First Nations and resource companies operating elsewhere in the country are watching closely to see what those talks might mean for them.

Tony Seskus spoke to Sander Duncanson, a partner in Osler’s Regulatory, Indigenous and Environmental Group, for and CBC’s The National about implications of the Court’s decision for future natural resource development in Blueberry River and other First Nations.

The Court’s landmark decision, Sander explains, “does change the law in Canada and potentially opens the door to similar claims all across the country from Indigenous groups.”

Sander says the announcement that 20 previously approved projects will require agreement from the First Nation to continue may give some idea of the nature of the discussions.

“There's still a lot of uncertainty around what the final agreement between the province and Blueberry will ultimately contain.”

“But it now looks fairly clear that one of the components will be a recognition that there will be certain areas where development cannot proceed without Blueberry's consent,” he says.

That could end up having a major impact on natural resource development projects across the country.

“The companies that have developments in northeast B.C., many of those same companies do have developments elsewhere in Canada as well, and they are certainly aware of the fact that what's happening there could happen elsewhere, too.”

You can read Tony Seskus’ full article, “How a big win for a First Nation in B.C. could bring change for resource development in Canada,” or watch the National segment, “B.C. Supreme Court ruling gives First Nation more say over land development,” on the CBC News website.