SYILX UNCEDED TERRITORIES and KELOWNA, BC – CNW — The BC First Nations Forestry Council (FNFC) held the first annual BC First Nations Forestry Council Forestry Conference this week at the Delta Grand Okanagan Resort in Kelowna within the unceded territory of the Syilx Peoples. 103 First Nations participants registered and attended the three-day event from June 19-21, 2019. Joining the First Nations participants were 25 industry participants and several government of BC representatives.

Over the three days, presenters representing individual First Nations communities, First Nations businesses, government, industry, and academic institutions all addressed the audience and engaged in discussions.

On day 1 of the conference, the BC First Nations Forest Strategy (the “Strategy”) was launched. The Strategy is a joint commitment between the province and FNFC to engage First Nations directly in the development of a revised BC First Nations Forest Strategy and implementation plan. First Nations participants at the conference continued to provide valuable feedback to further refine and strengthen the Strategy.

Charlene Higgins, CEO of the BC First Nations Forestry Council stated, “Time for talk is over. It’s time for change. The Strategy has been advanced over many years through direct feedback and support from First Nations. The Strategy is about raising the bar for all First Nations. To implement the Strategy the province must change the revenue sharing model with First Nations.

She continued: “The Strategy incorporates principles of UNDRIP and increases the role First Nations play in governance and stewardship of forest lands and resources.”

On the second day of the conference, the focus turned to forestry workforce opportunities. The FNFC presented information about the BC First Nations Forestry Workforce Strategy, and panels tackled topics such as forest career opportunities, business development opportunities, forestry safety, and training opportunities.

On the final day of the conference, presentations and discussions focused on First Nations industry partnerships. Panels were focused on First Nations’ forestry initiatives, and First Nations – industry partnership success stories.

“We were pleased to see the strong BC First Nations representation in attendance and on stage. We are talking about our forest lands and resources, that we have a right to, that includes decisions regarding these resources and access to benefits derived from the forest lands and resources within our territories. This was a conference focused on changes needed and opportunities to work together,” stated Chief Bill Williams, president of FNFC.

The FNFC wishes to thank all the conference sponsors, presenters and those who participated over the three days, contributing to a very successful first annual conference.

The FNFC is an advocacy organization that works to support Nations in efforts to increase their role in the governance of forest lands and resources and participation in the forest sector. We do not represent the Nations, nor are we a consultatory body.