Tipping Points: The Far-Reaching Implications of Yahey v British Columbia for Stopping the Degradation of Ecosystems and Biodiversity

Cumulative Effects, Treaty Rights
Gavin Smith - Staff Lawyer
Jack Jones - Law Student

On June 29, 2021, Blueberry River First Nations ("Blueberry") won a ground-breaking case that provides urgent legal direction to the BC Government to stop the “death by a thousand cuts” resulting from its disconnected, piecemeal approvals for activities like logging, oil and gas development, dams and mining, in order to respect the constitutionally-protected rights of Indigenous peoples.

In Yahey v British Columbia, the British Columbia Supreme Court finds that the Province has violated its treaty obligations to Blueberry by allowing extensive industrial development in their territory without assessing the cumulative impacts. The Court also prohibits the government from continuing to authorize activities that breach its treaty promises to Blueberry (a prohibition that kicks in six months from the judgment), and orders the parties to consult and negotiate in order to establish legally-enforceable mechanisms to manage cumulative effects and ensure that Blueberry's constitutional rights are protected. 

This case comment outlines a number of potential implications of this case for broadly transforming the way the BC Government manages (or does not manage) the cumulative effects of human development. As the case comment explains, Yahey propels us towards new integrated legal approaches that begin by looking at the big picture, prioritizing Indigenous rights, and protecting the needs of ecosystems and communities.

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