B.C. hasn’t been particularly good at including Indigenous populations in the decision-making process. First Nations are often brought to the table after high-level political decisions have already been made — leading to significant social and legal conflict over consultation, consent and the management of natural resources.
Legal challenges of Site C, the cumulative impacts of B.C.’s sprawling oil and gas operations and the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline are all current examples of what these conflicts look like.
But it doesn’t have to be so, say a team of researchers from by the University of Victoria’s POLIS Water Sustainability Project and the Centre for Indigenous Environmental Resources in a new report, which proposes B.C. manage water resources via a co-governance model based on a principle of collaborative consent.
“Imagine Indigenous people being involved at the highest level of policy-making and reaching an agreement that is good for everyone,” said Merrell-Ann Phare, founding executive director of the Centre for Indigenous Environmental Resources and lead author of the report.