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SRD takes lessons from Alberni district on welcoming First Nations

Strathcona Regional District directors may not have welcomed a First Nations representative to its board as scheduled Thursday but they did receive some welcome advice on what to expect once Lillian Jack arrives.

Jack, a member of the Ka:’yu:’k’t’h’/Che:k’tles7et’h’ First Nation which has been granted observer status at Strathcona Regional District board and committee of the whole meetings, was expected to take her spot at the board table at last week’s meeting but was unable to attend.

Instead, she will be welcomed to the table at the board’s next meeting on July 10.

In the meantime, John Jack, a Huu-ay-aht First Nation councillor, spoke of his nation’s experience with joining the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District in April, 2012.

“The Huu-ay-aht has learned it’s better to be at the board table than on the blockade lines,” Jack said. “We get more done.”

Teri Fong, finance manager for the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District, shared that having the two Huu-ay-aht members on regional district board has been an eye-opening experience.

“It’s fostered some great discussions,” Fong said. “Both new directors have excellent insights to add to the table. It’s been a great experience.”

The Huu-ay-aht are one of five First Nations that have the right to join their respective regional district boards under a provision in the Maa-nulth treaty.

One of those communities is the Ka:’yu:’k’t’h’/Che:k’tles7et’h’ First Nation which will be joining the Strathcona Regional District.

Fong encouraged directors and staff to go out and visit the First Nation community to get a feel for the people and an understanding of their goals and values.

“One thing we learned is there can never be enough communication,” Fong said.

“There was a lot to learn. It’s easy to get caught up in the little things but when you step back and reflect at what you now have at the table, it’s fabulous.”

Jack said for the Huu-ay-aht First Nation, reaching treaty was a humbling experience.

“Now our people feel like we’re a part of Canada and making an impact on Canada,” Jack said.

“It’s happening slowly, but it’s happening in an historic movement. This treaty is about us being a part of Canada and the communities around them. We’re a part of this country. We want to add to it as well as live in it.”

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