Without any media alert, McMillan, a Vancouver based law firm, issued a release emphasizing the potential significance of impending changes to land use decisions in British Columbia which could have far-reaching implications for the resource sector.
The firm expressed in its release, “Make no mistake – the subject matter of the consultation is unprecedented and of profound importance to any company that requires authorization to use Crown land in BC.”
“These include things like grazing leases, mining leases, licenses of occupation, and dock permits.”
According to McMillan, historically, these decisions have been made by the Minister responsible for the Land Act or delegates in the senior ranks of the public service, with a corresponding obligation to consult affected First Nations.
However, in late 2023, the British Columbia Supreme Court ruled that the existing online system for mineral claims staking, which lacked a consultation framework, infringed the Crown’s constitutional obligations and ordered B.C. to update the provincial mining legislation to ensure First Nations are consulted before any staking of mineral claims.
The firm noted that, under the new amendments being proposed, agreements with Indigenous groups could grant them veto power over decision-making about Crown land tenures and/or joint decision-making power with the Minister. This implies that the Crown alone would no longer have the sole authority to make decisions about Crown land deemed to be in the public interest.
Public engagement on these potential amendments is open until March 31, 2024.