Voices and Vision of Northern British Columbia
Northern BC must be prepared for significant changes over the coming decades as the province begins the work of healing from colonization and tackling climate change. In an effort to learn more about what northern communities need to successfully navigate these changes, we asked leaders from across the region how social movements and the provincial government can support their vision for the future. We learned meeting provincial policy goals around Indigenous rights and climate change comes with unique challenges in the North. At the same time, there are enormous opportunities if northern communities are provided the resources and capacity to take advantage of them.
Indigenous and settler communities share common interests and a vision for a strong, stable, sustainable economy. They want more collaboration and more involvement in decision-making. But they need support from the provincial government to see their aspirations become a reality. This requires a new approach to funding and decision-making that centres northern experience and on-the-ground realities. It requires learning from one another, understanding and respect.
Northern leaders identified key areas for growth to help communities thrive over the longterm. New jobs, industries and opportunities exist in renewable energy and emissions reductions; reclamation and stewardship; forests and food; tourism and outdoor recreation; small businesses and entrepreneurship; remote work and retirement; arts, culture and the voluntary sector; and support industries. They also highlighted investments necessary to support a thriving, diverse economy, such as infrastructure upgrades; improvements to amenities and municipal services; strengthening the care economy; and better access to education and training. Reconciliation and decolonization underscore all these efforts, as does the need for collaboration between communities and with other levels of government. It was clear from our interviews the province’s current approach to economic development across the North is not working. Participants wanted to see profound changes in the distribution of wealth that originates in the region and how decisions are made that affect their communities. This report suggests a number of ways to help communities meet basic community needs and implement provincial policy goals through offering better grants, providing direct funding and redistributing resource revenues. It also supports making adjustments to policy and program delivery, devolving decision-making and fostering collaboration. Policymakers, public servants, civil society organizations and anybody interested in seeing the province respect Indigenous rights and take action on climate change need to listen to and work with northerners to make sure these goals are successful.