"Legalizing" the Great Bear Rainforest Agreements: Colonial Adaptations toward Reconciliation and Conservation

By Curran, Deborah | McGill Law Journal, March 2017 | Go to article overview

"Legalizing" the Great Bear Rainforest Agreements: Colonial Adaptations toward Reconciliation and Conservation


Curran, Deborah, McGill Law Journal


The Great Bear Rainforest (GBR) agreements are heralded as one of the most important conservation initiatives in the world. They are intended to result in the protection of eighty-five per cent of the coastal temperate rainforest landscape on the British Columbia coast and to see seventy percent of the rainforest returned to old-growth forest. A clear terrestrial environmental success, the negotiation process and agreements are equally important for their enlivenment of Aboriginal rights and the governance authority of the Indigenous communities of the central and north coasts within a colonial law context. After stakeholders wrangled largely over the details of ecosystem-based management, First Nations and the provincial government engaged in government-to-government negotiations that are yielding agreement on the exercise of Aboriginal rights across an intact landscape, funding and priority access for First Nations' ventures as part of a conservation economy, and enhanced roles in decision making. In the absence of treaties and in a common law Aboriginal rights and title context, these agreements are a robust example of the movement toward reconciliation. The purpose of this article is to describe how the protection of the GBR and the expression of Aboriginal rights in that process has manifested in colonial law, and to examine these agreements in the context of reconciliation in Canada. While unique and ongoing, as all reconciliation efforts will be, the GBR agreements locate land-based protection and governance at their core. As an applied, ongoing initiative, these agreements give life to the concepts of joint decision making and underscore the nation- and place-specific context of any reconciliation process that must adapt over time.

Les accords de la foret pluviale de Great Bear sont percus comme certaines des initiatives de conservation les plus importantes dans le monde. Ils cherchent a proteger 85% des forets temperees cotieres en Colombie-Britannique, et retourner 75% de cette vegetation a des forets anciennes. Les accords jouent egalement un role important dans la preservation des droits autochtones et la gouvernance des communautes autochtones au long des cotes centrales et nordiques dans un contexte colonial. Apres des debats entre diverses parties prenantes sur les details d'une gestion basee sur l'ecosysteme, les Premieres Nations et le gouvernement provincial ont commence des negociations intergouvernementales sur l'exercice des droits autochtones a travers un paysage intact, le financement et la priorite d'acces pour les initiatives des Premieres Nations dans le cadre de l'economie de conservation, et des roles plus etendus dans la prise de decisions. En l'absence d'un traite, et dans le contexte des droits et titres autochtones en common law, ces accords sont un exemple solide d'un mouvement vers la reconciliation. Le but de cet article est de decrire comment la protection de la foret pluviale de Great Bear et l'expression des droits autochtones dans ce processus se manifestent dans le droit colonial, et d'examiner ces accords dans le contexte de la reconciliation au Canada. Bien que les efforts de reconciliation soient en cours, ces accords maintiennent la protection et la gouvernance basees sur les terres. Cette initiative illustre le concept de prise de decisions conjointes et souligne le contexte specifique aux differentes Nations et a divers endroits auquel il faut s'adapter dans un processus de reconciliation.

Introduction

I.   Reconciliation in Canada

II.  Great Bear Rainforest

     A.   Overview: Aboriginal Rights and Title Meet the
          Global Conservation Movement
     B.   Ecosystem-Based Management

          1. Conservancies
          2. Biodiversity, Mining, and Tourism Areas
          3. Ecosystem-Based Management Operating Areas

     C.   Social Well-Being and the Conservation Economy

          1. Conservation Investments
          2. Carbon Offsets Sharing
          3. … 

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