Simpcw show leadership in Raush Valley protection

By Laura Keil Publisher / Editor

The Simpcw’s declaration that they are protecting the Raush Valley is a big deal. While the announcement doesn’t change land use statuses under B.C. law, it does send a very loud and clear message to other governments and industry that the Simpcw will not be amenable to industrial activities or disruptions in that area, and it may open the door to codifying it soon in BC law.

The announcement comes after a year of hard work by First Nations to figure out their stance on old-growth logging. In late 2021, the Province announced it was essentially devolving responsibility for old-growth deferral decisions onto First Nations. Chief George Lampreau said this was like a “bomb” – without warning and without consultation. Both First Nations forestry companies and other area licensees were left in a murky limbo about the future of logging. But through this, First Nations like the Simpcw have managed to forge strong relationships with groups throughout their territory, including the Village of Valemount and the Village of McBride. They have also found a strong footing for further action in their territories – action like their declaration in the Raush.

The need for consultation is a well-worn tenet when it comes to reconciliation. But waiting for consultation is waiting for someone else to call the shots. In my conversation with Kukpi7 George Lampreau this week, it’s clear the Simpcw aren’t just waiting around. They are moving forward with actions that are in harmony with the Simpcw’s Six Directives. And this leadership has the Province’s attention.

The Province is in the midst of a delicate dance of trying to honour the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act (Declaration Act) adopted by the B.C. Government in 2019. But the Province isn’t used to not having executive authority in its domain. And the Simpcw are not pleased with the way the Province has been running the show. What will come next?

We live in interesting times. As First Nations assert more and more of their authority and forge stronger relationships with people in their territories, we could very well see a reckoning that makes decision makers in Victoria sit up in their seats, a change that may better serve all rural people in this province.