Proposed changes to forestry industry regulations could increase the level of input Aboriginal communities have in logging activities in their communities.
The proposal is being put forward by The Forest Stewardship Council of Canada, a group that assists consumers and businesses to identify products from well-managed forests.
Up to this point, the stewardship council has focused on four main principles but President Francois Dufresne says it is now condensing these into one new national standard.
This new standard will include a clause aimed at strengthening the rights of Indigenous peoples.
It calls for free, prior and informed consent be given to Aboriginal communities before any development occurs on their lands.
This means that any company wanting accreditation from the stewardship council will be required to seek out the Aboriginal communities in the area of development and consult with them directly.
“The certification holder will obtain their certificate only after the auditor deems that they’ve met all the criteria, all the principles, including that one, the First Nations rights,” Dufresne says.
He explains the auditor will then later meet with affected First Nations bands and verify proper consent and agreement – either verbal or written – has been given to the company.
The new standard is due to be rolled out next year.
Dufresne notes some major players in the forestry industry such as Tembec and Canfor have already voluntarily gained the certification from the FSC and others are following suit.
One company that’s excited about the change is Saskatchewan’s very own Mistik Management.
It obtained its FSC standard certificate in 2007.
Kevin Gillis, the certification coordinator for Mistik, says the new changes should give northern communities a lot more say over what’s happening in their territories.
“So what that would mean is that any industrial company would have to inform the residents of the area that they’re affecting prior to activity rather than during or post,” he says.
He adds Mistik also includes several commitments in its partnerships with Indigenous communities including a 70 per cent employment quota for Aboriginal workers in the forest management areas.
Gillis also says the new standard will essentially be an agreement between industry, government and Aboriginal peoples.
The new measure was prompted in part by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.