North Cowichan council has implemented a 60-day pause on the engagement process to facilitate government-to-government consultation with First Nations.

“I feel it is important that we respect the Indigenous right to self-governance and consult local First Nations in a meaningful way,” said Mayor Al Siebring. “Pausing public engagement will allow us to fully understand the issues and interests of local First Nations, which could potentially change the scope and scale of the public engagement process.”

The Municipal Forest Reserve is located on the land of seven local First Nations and the municipality reached out to these nations to see which ones wanted to partner in what the consultation process should look like.

“Through this consultation process, it is important we continue to build a strong relationship with local First Nations, and we are taking steps to do that,” said Siebring.

The Interim Forest Management Plan, which was set to be implemented this fall to guide forest management until the last day of 2021 will be delayed due to the pause in engagement.

Council may, in the absence of an interim plan, consider more harvesting of blow-down salvage or removal of hazardous trees for fire prevention.