|Biological Diversity||Ecosystem Condition and Productivity||Soil and Water||Role in Global Ecological Cycles||Economic and Social Benefits||Society's Responsibility|
|Aboriginal and Treaty Rights||Aboriginal Traditional Land Use and Forest-based Ecological Knowledge||Forest Community Well-being and Resilience||Fair and Effective Decision Making||Informed Decision Making|
6.1 Aboriginal and Treaty Rights
Sustainability involves not only the values related to the forest resource itself but a human dimension as well. Forest operations take place on lands that are often public and located close to or within the boundaries of Aboriginal territories and communities. Furthermore, many rural communities, both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal, depend on the forest sector for their economic and social well-being.
Element 6.1 describes efforts by jurisdictions to respect Aboriginal and treaty rights. Because 80% of all Aboriginal communities are located in forested areas, respect for these rights is an important aspect of sustainable forest management. Aboriginal and treaty rights are recognized and affirmed by the Canadian constitution. Jurisdictions must consult with the Aboriginal communities in situations where these rights could be infringed upon by forest management activities. Jurisdictions also consult all sectors of the forest community when developing policy or legislation. Despite difficulties in measuring the extent of Aboriginal consultations, there have generally been significant improvements over the last several years in the ways that jurisdictions, and the forest industry, consult with Aboriginals in forest management planning. Aboriginal peoples are also gaining increasing ownership and control of land. Land claims and treaty entitlements are on-going processes and, as claims are resolved, Aboriginals gain a level of control over resource access that cannot be secured on crown lands or on comanaged lands. This can lead to significant long-term economic opportunities.
Forest management activities are also benefiting from the increased incorporation of Aboriginal traditional land use and forest-based ecological knowledge. Element 6.2 documents efforts provinces have undertaken to gather information on Aboriginal traditional ecological knowledge, including funding a variety of studies to map the location of areas traditionally used by or of cultural importance to Aboriginal peoples. However, despite the progress made under this element, there is a need to improve the information base on these studies to ensure that, where considered appropriate by Aboriginal peoples, this valuable knowledge is transferred from its traditional users to nontraditional users such as the forest industry and private woodlot owners. This will provide an additional set of time-tested tools to forest managers and bring Canada closer to reaching the goal of sustainable forest management.
To properly assess progress toward sustainable forest management, it is important to gauge the well-being of both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal forestdependent communities. Element 6.3 shows that economic diversity, education attainment levels, rate of employment, and incidence of low income can all indicate the economic and social fitness of these communities. These indicators currently suggest that increased levels of forest dependence are associated with lower levels of well-being and resilience in many non-Aboriginal communities across Canada. Results are quite similar for Aboriginal communities, despite the fragmented data on incidence of low income that make it difficult to draw conclusions.
Element 6.4 examines fair and effective decision making in sustainable forest management. Forest practices should reflect social values in order to be effective as a means of moving toward sustainability. This is why Canada’s jurisdictions encourage public involvement in their forest management decisionmaking processes to incorporate the full range of social values and ensure a quicker response to changes in these values over time. Those involved in these processes have commented that they are fair and worthwhile, despite the complex and demanding nature of the exercise. Developing policies and practices that meet the social values of Canadians will not support the goal of sustainability if compliance to the forest management standards defined through these policies and practices is low. Canadian jurisdictions carry out regular compliance assessments and the rate of compliance has generally been found to be high, demonstrating that standards are being successfully enforced.
Jurisdictions are also continually working to produce new data to inform decision making and keep forest management standards current. Element 6.5 looks at these efforts. As part of this work, a new National Forest Inventory was developed and is being implemented to monitor the condition of Canada’s forests. This will help improve national and international reporting. Furthermore, inventory data in Canada are generally widely available to the public and forest managers to improve decision making. Investment in S&T research and development (R&D) and in higher levels of education is another indicator of society’s commitment to more informed decision making. There is currently an overall increase in direct and indirect investment levels, although further refinement of investment categories among jurisdictions would improve this assessment.
Investments in R&D also contribute to continually updating forest management standards and practices. Trends in several ecological issues across Canada, such as soil and water conservation, are often difficult to roll up into national quantitative indicators related to forest management impacts or outcomes. However, understanding the extent to which ecological research is used in updating guidelines and standards can help gauge progress toward sustainability.