Course:FRST370/2022/Northeastern British Columbia Forests: BC Government Policies and Agreements with Blueberry River First Nation in northern British Columbia, Canada

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Summary of Case Study

The Yahey case details a conflict between the BC government and the Blueberry River First Nation. The British Columbia Supreme Court claimed on June 29, 2021, that the British Columbia Government had breached Treaty 8 rights (Treaty Eight aims to protect the economic interest of the settler from the government's perspective) by overdeveloping the area of the Blueberry River First Nation over many decades of industrial growth. The Supreme court requires the government to allocate $65 million to Blueberry River communities, $35 million for the restoration of the land such as land, road, restoration, river restoration, native seed, and nursery projects, and providing of more jobs for first nations members; another $30 million will be allocated to Blueberry Rivers’ protection of their Indigenous way of life (rights for hunting, trapping and fishing), based on sustainable use of the local ecosystem. In addition, there were approvals for 195 forestry and oil and gas projects. Twenty projects received approval but cannot move forward without further discussions with the Blueberry First Nation. After these negotiations, they eventually reached a consensus.


On June 21, 1899 Treaty 8 was signed at Slave Lake to guarantee rights to a number of First Nations to maintain their Indigenous way of life.
In 1900 Treaty 8 was adhered to by ancestors of the Blueberry River.
During 1906-2010 Projects in Treaty 8 regions received government approval and licenses, leading to accumulating development in the Blueberry River territory.
In 2012 Release of the Peace Region of British Columbia's Atlas of Landcover, Industrial Land Uses, and Industrial Land Changes
During 2012-2016 Within the territory of Blueberry River, the province approved more than 2,600 oil and gas wells, 1,884 km of new highways, and 1,500 km of new seismic lines.
On March 3, 2015 Blueberry River First Nations filed a notice of civil claim in the B.C. Supreme Court alleging a breach of treaty rights based upon the cumulative impacts of development in their traditional territories-the first claim of its kind to go to trial in Canada.
On June 28, 2016 The Atlas of Cumulative Landscape Disturbance in the Traditional Territory of Blueberry River First Nations released
On May 27, 2019 The case-Blueberry River First Nations v. Province of B.C. started
On June 29, 2021 the B.C. Supreme Court declared that the Province breached the Treaty 8 rights of Blueberry River First Nations
On Oct. 7, 2021 Blueberry River First Nations and the Province reached an initial agreement


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On June 29th, 2021, the BC Supreme court ruled that the British Columbia Government had breached Treaty 8 rights by developing too much in Blueberry River First Nation’s territory, over decades upon decades of industrial development. The court ordered the Government to stop allowing new development in the way that it has been and ordered Blueberry and the BC Government to work out land management rules that protect its treaty rights. Implementing the Court’s ruling requires establishing protected areas, stronger environmental standards for future development, wildlife protection, and extensive restoration so that the land can heal. Blueberry members and families are a key part of identifying the areas and protections the land needs. Implementing the decision is about protecting the land for our future generations, and we must do this together. We must uphold the intentions of Treaty 8[3].

The legally binding treaty known as Treaty 8 lays out the conditions under which colonial colonization would be permitted in areas that Indigenous peoples had inhabited and relied upon for ages. Treaties offer a structure for coexisting and sharing the territory that Indigenous peoples have historically occupied. These agreements serve as the cornerstones for ongoing collaboration and engagement as we approach reconciliation together[1].


In 2015, Blueberry River First Nation filed a civil claim, against the government of British Columbia, claiming the alarming rate of industrial mining, and pipelining, as a land disturbance to their Traditional territory. Blueberry River First Nation is located in northeastern BC, in a mountain foothill region, full of vast amounts of deciduous and coniferous forests, situated in the Northern Rocky Mountains. This case study is a closer look into Indigenous reconciliation between BC First Nations, and the BC provincial government. Band members of Blueberry River First Nations, have voiced concerns about industrial development, on traditional and ancestral lands located in the Peace region, which abundantly provides waters, wildlife, and land-based nutritional value to the community.

Tenure arrangements

Common Law, The Crown, BC Provincial Government, Treaty 8,  The property rights, including all of the traditional territories of BRFN. Right Holders, Indigenous Rights Ruling, 46% of BC’s reserved pipelines through tenures are active today. Active petroleum and natural gas tenures cover 69% of Blueberry River’s traditional territory. 36% of oil and gas wells are active in Blueberry River’s traditional territory.

Institutional/Administrative arrangements

Filing against economic activities in the Traditional Peace Region. The province of BC did not file an appeal against the claim filed by the local first nation. The government maintains a suspension on new oil and gas projects in the northeast part of the province.

Affected Stakeholders

Right Holders,' Blueberry River, Treaty 8 band members unable to carry on traditional activities (Treaty 8 contains promises from the Crown that the indigenous signatories “shall have right to pursue their usual vocations of hunting, trapping, and fishing”), which were promised by the Crown under Treaty 8. Traditional lands have been occupied by drilling sites, land mines, and gas and oil extraction sites. The indigenous peoples stakeholders hold customary rights to their traditional territory.

Interested Stakeholders

Share of export earnings. est. current value of goods and services. 2018. British Columbia

BC Government, Industrial companies, Forestry gas, and oil companies, BC Hydro, Permit Holders, Permit Project managers, Province of BC, Ministry of Forests Natural Resource Operations, Rural Development, Ministry of Energy, Mines, and Low Carbon Innovation, Gas Lobbyists.

Because the forestry and mining industries account for more than 40% of British Columbia's economy, interested stakeholders such as the BC government and major industrial companies wield a disproportionate amount of power over regional development.


In the case of breaching treaty 8 rights of the Blueberry River first nation, the BC government had been abusing the right of treaty 8 to conduct a series of resource exploration development. It is necessary to investigate the causes of such a case, and how the BC government values the first nation territory, and what first nations mean to the government.  It is also important to research on how many potential cases like the Blueberry River first nation are still occurring, and show the importance of first nations in the country, and demand the BC government to respect the rights of first nation people.

Treaty 8 has a long history of agreements between Indigenous peoples and local governments, when it was created in 1899, settlers of Lake Athabasca, Great Slave Lake, in the Peace region. Cree first peoples, Beaver first peoples, and Chipewyan first peoples had bands and community form together negotiations and plans with the government signed in 1900. Treaty 8 is a reflection of Treaties 1-7, and a reflection of previous agreement, the Royal Proclamation of 1763.

The First Nation's members are unable to properly carry on the traditional activities whose continuity was guaranteed to them by the Crown under Treaty 8 because of the displacement brought on by the cumulative effects of all of these different activities. According to the claim, members no longer have access to enough land and resources in an undamaged state to support the economic activity, land use, and occupation patterns necessary for their subsistence.

Petroleum and Natural Gas Tenure Blueberry River First Nation

More than 2,600 oil and gas wells, 1,884 km of permanent roads for oil and gas access, 740 km of roads for oil and gas development, 1,500 km of new pipelines, and 9,400 km of seismic lines can now be built on the traditional territory of the Blueberry River First Nations. Since then, the traditional area of the nation has seen the harvest of about 290 forestry cut blocks. Less than 14% of the traditional area of the Blueberry River First Nations is still covered by the intact forest landscape that makes up 60% of British Columbia. Less than 1% of the traditional territory of the Blueberry River First Nations is made up of provincial parks and other protected areas. 46% of the area in British Columbia designated for pipelines by tenure is located on traditional Blueberry River First Nations lands. 69% of the traditional land of the Blueberry River First Nations is covered by active petroleum and natural gas tenures. 36% of the 19,974 oil and gas wells in the traditional area of the Blueberry River First Nations are now producing. 9,435 oil and gas facilities exist, the majority of which are test facilities (6,210) and battery sites (1,120). About 5% of British Columbia's total land area is designated as an agricultural land reserve, while 28% of the traditional territory of the Blueberry River First Nations is located there. 13% of the traditional area of the Blueberry River First Nations is made up of agricultural grounds. 20% of the traditional territory of the First Nation is now privately held land.

Critical Issues

Cumulative Effects Footprint Blueberry River First Nation
  • The Court finds that “the caribou populations in the Blueberry Claim Area are in serious decline, and are unlikely to reach self-sustaining levels… anthropogenic disturbance, including industrial disturbance, has largely caused or contributed to that decline” (Yahey, paras. 736-737).
  • According to Justice Emily Burke’s description of the disruption of ecosystems in Blueberry: I have concluded that the landscape over which Blueberry is seeking to exercise its treaty rights has been significantly impacted by industrial development… 73% to 85% of the Blueberry Claim Area is within 250 meters of a disturbance, and between 84% to 91% of the Blueberry Claim area is within 500 meters of a disturbance. That scale, even give or take a percent or more, is fundamentally not what was agreed to at the Treaty (Yahey, paras. 1076-1077).
  • The Court goes on to note, “with respect to marten and fisher, I find it likely that industrial activities, which lead to loss of canopy cover, have had negative impacts on marten and fisher in the Blueberry Claim Area” (Yahey, para. 810)


The Yahey case has the potential to be an important driver for change in BC’s Government decision-making. This case figured out the Province’s current failed approach-lack of accountability, unenforceability, and delay[4].

The initial agreement with Blueberry First Nation required BC Government to take action. The Province of British Columbia and Blueberry River are collaborating to establish a way to sustainable development that upholds Treaty Rights and finds a balance between the environment, economics, and local jobs. Some project licenses were obtained after the Court's decision. The keys components in the agreement include:

Healing the land[3]

A $35 million fund has been set up to support programs and initiatives such as land, road and seismic restoration; river, stream and wetland restoration; habitat connectivity; native seed and nursery projects; and training for restoration activities.

The Blueberry River First Nations government will set up its own decision-making framework regarding how the restoration money will be used, the restoration priorities, the methodology, and the budget allocation. While the Province as a non-decision making role would only take part in this structure to guarantee that restoration works are coordinated across the entire region. With respect to the rights of Blueberry River's people, if Province released a Treaty 8 structure for restoration or healing of the land, Blueberry will name a representative to it.

Protecting Blueberry River's way of life[3]

A $10 million fund has been established to support Blueberry's way of life and creates new jobs for those who live within the territory of Treaty 8. The projects and programs include rebuilding and renewing the trapline and hunting cabins; restoring cultural areas in the area of Pink Mountain; building trails; developing educational materials; and teaching traditional skills and language advisors. This will stimulate the economy and replace any employment that may have been lost as a result of the decision with new ones.

Developing knowledge tools for land management[3]

A $10 million fund has been established to support capacity development, programs and projects including hiring new staff for the Blueberry Lands Department; implementing data management and eco-based mapping systems; training for staff and membership; communicating and educating with the public and proponents; and hiring consultants.

Restoration for the health of wildlife[3]

A $10 million fund has been established for programs and projects such as predator control; moose and fur-bearer studies; habitat enhancement; prescribed burns and land adaptation; caribou recovery partnerships with the Province; and restrictions on the use of herbicides. In addition, The Province will also collaborate with the Blueberry River First Nation and other Treaty 8 nations to update the laws governing moose hunting in an attempt to restore healthy moose populations.


As part of the agreement, 195 forestry and oil and gas projects were permitted in the initial agreement. And twenty projects were approved but will not proceed without further negotiation with Blueberry First Nation. The next step is negotiation to deal with the cumulative effects on Blueberry River First Nations treaty rights; Focus on emergency, environmental protection, and public safety reasons for both Blueberry First Nations and the Province (The Province and Blueberry River First Nations are working together on a path forward in the Claim Area).

The Province will develop an engagement plan: opportunities for the industry. It will also engage with other Treaty 8 First Nations to ensure they are getting involved with the new approaches to authorizations. The Province and Blueberry River First Nations will work together and keep updated on the negotiations with industry, local governments, and residents (The Province and Blueberry River First Nations are working together on a path forward in the Claim Area).


Our hope for our case study is that future generations, and students can learn more about what local first nations are pursuing in order to stop industrial development in their ancestral homelands. Our hope is to find gaps in knowledge of the traditional territory and how industry government projects cause harm to traditional territory and local first peoples' ceremonial practices. There are many artists, and writers advocating for First peoples rights in Canada, students recommend researching more about indigenous rights in Canada, and reading books curated by indigenous writers who write about their own first hand experiences as First peoples.


After filing a civil claim, Blueberry River’s choice to sue the BC government for breaching Treaty rights seemed to have worked out in their favor and has struck local officials, government agencies, and local communities. As rightholders to their Traditional Territory, Blueberry River’s band members can move forward knowing their rights will be upheld, after a decades-long battle to stop the industrial development on their homelands. The Yahey encourages us to adopt integrated legal strategies that start with the big picture, give priority to Indigenous rights, and protect the requirements of communities and ecosystems.


[1] A prosperous Northeast B.C. benefits us all. We must manage and use our resources sustainably. Blueberry River First Nations.

[2] Government of Canada. (2020, July 30). Treaties and agreements. Government of Canada/ Gouvernement du Canada.

[3] BC Government. (2021, October 7). B.C., Blueberry River First Nations reach agreement on existing permits, restoration funding. BC Gov News.

[4] Smith, G. & et al., (July 21, 2021). Tipping Points: The Far-Reaching Implications of Yahey v British Columbia for Stopping the Degradation of Ecosystems and Biodiversity. West Coast Environment Law.

[5] Eliana Macdonald, DesLibris. Atlas of Cumulative Landscape Disturbance in the Traditional Territory of Blueberry River First Nations, 2016, Ecotrust Canada. CID: 20.500.12592/pgj4bk. David Suzuki Foundation.

[6] Almond, R. (2012). Dreamers from distant worlds: Treaty Eight and the clash of two worldviews. California State University, Dominguez Hills.

[7] Amatulli, G. (2022). Cumulative effects of industrial development and Treaty 8 Infringements in Northeastern British Columbia: The Litigation Yahey v. BC (S151727) – Case Comment. Arctic Review on Law and Politics, pp. 160 – 170.

[8] BC Oil & Commission. (Oct 7, 2021) The Province and Blueberry River First Nations are working togeter on a path forward in the Claim Area, following the June 2021 B.C. Supreme Court decision.

[9] Environmental Stewardship Initiative. Government of British Columbia.

[10] Imai, S. (2017). Consult, consent and veto: International norms and Canadian treaties. The Right Relationship (U of T Press) edited by Michael Coyle and John Borrows.

[11] Madill, D. (1986). Treaty Research Report-Treaty Eight (1899). Ottawa, Canada: Treaties and Historical Research Centre, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada.

[12] McGuigan, E. K. (2006). Of moose and man: collaborating to identify First Nations’ priorities for cumulative impact assessment in northeast British Columbia (Doctoral dissertation, University of British Columbia).

[13] Northeast. Government of British Columbia.

[14] Treaty Texts: Treaty No. 8. (2013, August 30). Government of Canada.

[15] Perks, R., & Thomson, A. (Eds.). (2015). The Oral History Reader (3rd ed.). Routledge.

Theme: Northeastern British Columbia Forests: BC Government Policies and Agreements with Blueberry River First Nation in Northern BC Case study
Country: Canada
Province/Prefecture: British Columbia
City: Blueberry River First Nation territory

This conservation resource was created by Larry Liu, Zihan Wang, Will Davis.