North Cowichan talks with First Nations on forest reserve far behind schedule
North Cowichan and local First Nations are not meeting the terms of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) related to consultation on the Municipal Forest Reserve.
The MOU signed August 17, 2021, called for creation of a Working Group among the parties to conduct closed meetings “at least monthly” — but that has not happened.
In response to a request by sixmountains.ca for an update on discussions, Mayor Rob Douglas said in an email statement that “North Cowichan staff have met twice with the Quw’utsun Nation working group representatives.
“The initial meetings have been general in nature, discussing meeting process and administration along with sharing information about the forestry public engagement and forestry review process. The municipality has not hired any consultants nor have other costs been incurred other than staff time.
“We are hopeful to have another meeting scheduled soon to further the initial discussions as well as organize a meeting between the elected Councils in the near future…."
Signatories to the agreement include Cowichan Tribes and the Halalt, Lyackson, Penelakut and Stz’uminus First Nations.
A two-phase, parallel public process on the future of the Municipal Forest Reserve, also known as the Six Mountains, has already shown overwhelming support for conservation values over continued status-quo logging.
The UBC forestry department has also told council it stands to earn millions more from carbon-credit sales for leaving the forests standing rather than logging over 30 years.
The failure of talks with First Nations to meet the monthly deadline for meetings raises questions about how long the process might continue. Unfortunately, strict terms of the MOU hamper information sharing with the public.
sixmountains.ca previously reported that the first meeting after signing of the MOU was to have taken place within 14 days — but, in fact, took months.
Obviously, the Municipality was overly ambitious in its timeline given the complexity of meeting with so many First Nations, each of whom may have differing priorities.
The MOU took more than a year to complete, during which time council shut down the parallel public consultation on the forest reserve. The MOU may be terminated by either party with two weeks’ notice.
Full text of the MOU: https://bit.ly/3pB2d8w
North Cowichan has no legal obligation to engage First Nations on the forest reserve, but is doing so in the spirit of reconciliation.
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— Larry Pynn, May 7, 2023