B.C. First Nation signs new agreement

April 16, 2018
Written by The Canadian Press
April 16, 2018, Vancouver – The Tsilhqot'in Nation has signed a first-of-its-kind agreement with the federal and British Columbia governments that recognizes the First Nation as a full partner in wildfire response.

Through the agreement, the three governments will work together to identify best practices and build the First Nation community's capacity to manage emergencies.

Chief Joe Alphonse says he'd like to see a culturally-appropriate First Nations evacuation centre established, as well as a training facility.

Alphonse's community, which he says has 400 trained firefighters and understands fire response better than anyone, defied an evacuation order in 2017.

He says that although wildfires encircled three quarters of his community last season, the flames posed less of a threat to the community than the federal and provincial governments, which failed to acknowledge the First Nation's jurisdiction and expertise.

Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould described the agreement as "truly historic," while B.C. Indigenous Relations Minister Scott Fraser says it is an important step toward reconciliation.

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