BC wildfires could be brought under control with Indigenous stewardship

With a new wildfire season beginning in the province, a recent study by the University of British Columbia recommends the removal of barriers so that Indigenous burning practices can be used to help control the fires.

The UBC study, titled “The Right to Burn,” examines how cultural burning can fit into the Western system, reactivating fire management across Canada and revitalizing the practice.

Kira Hoffman, a UBC postdoctoral fellow and one of the study’s lead authors, told CTV News Vancouver that the study looks at some of the barriers currently in place.

“What we looked at was the role of cultural burning in broader Indigenous territories. So right now a lot of permits are needed to burn reserves or private land outside,” she explained.

“So we looked at how we could light the fire on the broader land base, and what that means is Indigenous territories. »

The researchers looked at how fire is “embedded in Indigenous sovereignty” and rights to participate in ceremonies, Hoffman said.

“We have to identify another way to live with fire, to understand fire and to support fire, because at the end of the day, fire is a really healthy part of ecosystems but also of human communities,” she said. declared.

Last month, the Union of BC Indian Chiefs told CTV News that Indigenous communities in Vancouver need to be more involved in managing wildfires in British Columbia.

“We need to be part of the chain of command,” said Grand Chief Stewart Phillip. “We have indigenous traditional knowledge about land and wind patterns and so on, so our people need to be involved at the center of the whole wildfire issue. »

Phillip said he was “seriously concerned” about the upcoming wildfire season.

Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation Minister Murray Rankin also said last month that the province is “learning to communicate better with Indigenous communities.”

This year’s provincial budget includes $145 million over three years to strengthen British Columbia’s wildfire and emergency management services. In part, the funding is intended to move the BC Wildfire Service from its current reactive fire response model to a more proactive one.

More than 80 wildfires have been recorded in British Columbia since early April.

With files from Alissa Thibault of CTV News Vancouver

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