2020 has been an unprecedented year. We are grateful to you for supporting us, for sharing in your knowledge and perspectives, and for guiding our vision to assist all Nations in creating a healthy forest sector that continues to sustain the cultural, spiritual, economic, and social lives of BC’s First Nations.
In spite of the challenges this year we are proud to have accomplished a lot together, continuing the important work of advocating for meaningful and consistent involvement of First Nations as full partners in a revitalized forest sector. We adapted to new ways of ensuring your voices could be heard through virtual meetings and online forms, resulting in the release of a recommendations report that outlines Indigenous values and principles for defining forest stewardship objectives. This report sets a path for much needed, continued engagement and work on forest policy and legislative reform in the new year.
ur workforce initiatives gained great success this year with the launch of our first virtual career fair, #ForestryConnect2020, which attracted nearly 200 Indigenous students from across the province, engaging on forestry work opportunities and educational programs. The Indigenous Forestry Scholarship Program (IFSP) also welcomed a new Program Partner, BC Wildfire Service, which enabled us to increase scholarship awards to a total of 25 Indigenous students from 23 communities this year.
The release of our 2017-2020 Activities Report marked another important milestone: the revitalization of our First Nations Membership Program. Membership allows us to build a meaningful relationship that supports, informs, and involves you in provincial initiatives, including forest policy and legislative changes the province continues to advance. To all of the members who have reaffirmed their support for our work this year: thank you.
Over a year ago, the BC government committed to the implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). The articles of UNDRIP link directly to the six goals of the BC & First Nations Forest Strategy. However, the province still has not followed through on their commitment of endorsing it. It is critical that we continue to put pressure on the new provincial government to endorse the Forest Strategy.
The Forestry Council is here to listen, support, and advocate for the role Nations should play in the governance and stewardship of forest lands and resources. As we welcome the new year, I look forward to continuing our work together, advocating for the changes needed to forest policies, legislation, and practices to ensure BC First Nations are full partners in the transformation of the forest sector. Together we can make change happen.
We wish you a healthy and happy holiday season.
Charlene Higgins, MSc, PhD
CEO, BC First Nations Forestry Council