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Well, that was quite a week. 

On the heels of the federal election, there was a monumental moment for Indigenous rights here in British Columbia, with the introduction of a provincial law to implement the United Nations Declarations on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The declaration lays out the right of Indigenous people to have “free, prior and informed consent” over projects in their territories.

We were lucky enough to get an interview with Merle Alexander, an Indigenous lawyer who co-drafted the legislation, and with Jack Woodward, the lawyer who won the Tsilhqot’in title case. They helped us unravel what the new law will mean, if passed. 

If you’re still wondering what it looks like when Indigenous laws and provincial laws clash, check out our feature on a sprawling “jade rush” happening right now in northwestern B.C. — against the wishes of the Tahltan Nation.

“They’ve built roads and ripped up a lot of land and forest,” said Tahltan Central Government President Chad Norman Day.

It was a timely turn of events when this week a coalition of groups called on the provincial government to fund Indigenous monitoring of mines in traditional territories.

“We’re saying our communities are right next to these projects. It would make sense that First Nations would perform some of these monitoring and compliance type functions,” said Allen Edzerza, member of the Tahltan First Nation and representative of the First Nations Energy and Mining Council.

That spirit of self-governance and self-determination is available in spades in Heiltsuk territory, where we filmed a video we’re sharing this week about a remarkable cultural resurgence.
Once decimated by smallpox and influenza, the Heiltsuk recently opened their first Big House in 120 years and are in the midst of building a land-based healing centre. Their story of resilience is a welcome antidote to post-election punditry. 

Keep scrolling for even more of what we’ve been up to this week. 

Emma Gilchrist
Editor-in-Chief

Feds called on to enforce emergency closure of B.C.’s last herring fishery

By Sarah Cox

New data released from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans reveals another massive annual decline of herring — a primary food source for endangered Chinook salmon — in the Strait of Georgia. Read more.

Mining company secretly proposes to increase industrial shipping in Arctic marine conservation area

By Jimmy Thomson

The owners of one of the world's northernmost mines is telling investors it has plans to increase shipping capacity 50 per cent higher than what it’s telling the public. That could have major impacts for the narwhals who — until recently — enjoyed relatively quiet northern waters. Read more.

Heiltsuk rising: inside the cultural resurgence of one B.C. First Nation

By Emma Gilchrist

A new Big House and land-based healing centre mark a remarkable moment for the Heiltsuk people. Read more.

Groups call on B.C. to fund Indigenous monitoring of mines in traditional territories

By Judith Lavoie

As the province considers reforms to mining laws, 30 organizations are advocating for increased transparency and more independent enforcement — including an increased role for Indigenous communities to oversee projects approved on their lands. Read more.

The jade hunters on Tahltan land

By Christopher Pollon

Popularized in reality TV shows like Jade Fever, amateur and independent miners have been flocking to northwest B.C. in search of the precious green stone that’s being dug up on mountain sides and riverbeds at an increasing pace. And while operators come armed with permits from the province, the Tahltan Nation is evicting miners who do not have permission to operate on unceded traditional territory under Indigenous law. Read more and watch the video.

Unravelling B.C.’s landmark legislation on Indigenous rights

By Carol Linnitt

If passed, the new law will make B.C. the first government in Canada to codify the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Once implemented, it will significantly alter the way major resource projects are approached on Indigenous territories. Read more.

‘When are they going to ensure the polluter pays?’: proposed B.C. mining reforms don’t go far enough

By Judith Lavoie

A plan to update the province’s antiquated Mines Act will bring more independent oversight of mines but doesn’t address lax regulations that leave responsibility for clean-up costs, such as in the Mount Polley mine disaster, in the hands of taxpayers. Read more.

Haida Gwaii’s kelp forests disappeared. Here’s how they’re being brought back to life

By Jason G. Goldman

A remarkable, collaborative effort to manage traditional food sources off the coast of Haida Gwaii is blending traditional knowledge and Western science to bring better balance to an out-of-whack ecosystem still reeling from the impacts of the fur trade. Read more.

Federal election frustrations for the Greens highlight electoral system flaws — again

By Mark Winfield

Despite getting the most number of votes in the Canadian Green Party's history, the 2019 federal election left them with widespread support but not enough seats for official party status. Read more.

The Narwhal in the world
What we're reading
Polarization has barely changed with respect to policy positions — it's the emotional kind that's grown. So is it policy that divides Canadians the most, or partisanship? John Santos says the data points to the latter 📊
What we're listening to
We found this Front Burner episode super interesting. Despite the Conservatives now having the largest opposition in Canadian history, the party faces real questions about how to run its next campaign and whether Andrew Scheer should stay on as leader 🎧
A note from a Narwhal
Gaile! Your note really made our day 💚 Thanks so much for your enthusiasm about our new story and video on the jade hunters on Tahltan land.
Happy Halloween! 🎃 Trying to avoid junk food today? Help out your pals by offering them something smarter to munch on 😉
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