MLT Aikins Advises First Nation in Landmark Implementation of UNDRIP with B.C. Government

The ‘Namgis First Nation, the Kwikwasut’inuxw Haxwa’mis First Nation and Mamalilikulla First Nation and the Province of British Columbia have used a ground-breaking government-to-government process to reach consensus recommendations that will remove as many as 17 fish farms from the Broughton Archipelago by the year 2023.

On June 27, 2018, the three First Nations and British Columbia agreed that they would use a consent-based government-to-government process consistent with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) to govern the renewal of the tenures for the 17 fish farms.

On December 14, the First Nations and British Columbia announced the outcome of that process. The plan will see 10 of the fish farms closed by the year 2022. The remaining seven will close in 2022 or 2023, unless the First Nations agree to have the tenures continued and Fisheries and Oceans Canada is satisfied that the fish farms will not cause harm to wild fish.

The First Nations will lead an Indigenous Monitoring and Inspection Program that will oversee the fish farms during the transition. The fish farms will have to adhere to standards set by the First Nations’ monitoring program. First Nations will have the power to inspect and monitor fish farms during the transition period.

Sean Jones of MLT Aikins represented the ‘Namgis First Nation in coming to the agreement, which is intended to restore the wild salmon population in the Broughton Archipelago.

The agreement is ground-breaking for the provincial government’s implementation of UNDRIP with respect to the operations of an entire industry in First Nations’ territories.

The two fish farm companies affected by the decision have agreed to the transition plan.

The ‘Namgis First Nation is currently awaiting the Federal Court’s decision on a judicial review in which ‘Namgis argued that Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s process of authorizing the transfer of fish into fish farms was unlawful, unreasonable and done in bad faith.

About Sean Jones

Based in the Vancouver office of MLT Aikins, Sean practises in Indigenous, environmental and regulatory law, with a focus on natural resource law. He has advised clients on major projects and negotiated commercial agreements between government or industry with Indigenous communities. Sean has represented First Nations in Federal Court and has appeared at all levels of court in British Columbia.