The Strathcona Regional District will not commit to supplying services to a proposed Tlowitsis reserve in Area D.
The Tlowitsis First Nation has applied to Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) to establish a reserve in the York Road area. As part of that process, the Tlowitsis asked the regional district to send a letter to INAC stating that it would work with the nation to provide basic services to the reserve.
At last week’s meeting between the regional district’s four electoral directors, the consensus was that they could not support that request.
The group passed a motion that it will inform INAC that the regional district “cannot provide the requested letter of support regarding the supply of services to the proposed Tlowitsis Addition to Reserve in our regional district” due to a “lack of information and absence of consultation with Area D residents.”
Michele Vanderwoude, communications coordinator for the regional district, wrote in a report to the electoral directors that the Tlowitsis recently met with regional district staff and requested a letter that addresses the issue of providing services such as water, sewer, garbage collection and fire protection.
Staff drafted a letter for the electoral directors to consider which outlined the current state of service provision in Area D, but also asked for a comprehensive consultation process to address areas of concern including bylaw harmonization and service agreements, taxation compensation, dispute resolution mechanisms and other factors that may affect Area D residents.
Since March, when the Tlowitsis’ reserve proposal first became public knowledge, Area D Director Brenda Leigh has been calling for community consultation.
In June, the regional district board sent a letter to INAC advising that it is lacking concrete information on the Tlowitsis’ proposal and asking that a comprehensive consultation process be conducted in Area D. Dave Leitch, the regional district’s CAO, told the board last week, however, that INAC feels it is Area D’s responsibility to consult. The regional district is hosting a Community to Community Forum sometime within the next couple of months to sort out with INAC how that consultation will take place.
The Tlowitsis are proposing to establish a home community for between 100 and 150 of its members over the next 10 to 30 years on a 630-acre site off York Road. The Tlowitsis signed a purchase agreement with TimberWest for the property in July of 2015 which is contingent on the Tlowitsis being successful in its Additions to Reserve application.
When and if the proposal is approved by INAC, the Tlowitsis say it will begin a formal planning process and finalize specific infrastructure plans that would be developed in collaboration with INAC.
The First Nation’s vision is to build a community with 75 to 100 homes, an administrative office, a day school, a council hall and a recreational and sports area.
The Tlowitsis have 11 reserves scattered throughout the region but Tlowitsis Coun. Thomas Smith said none are large enough to support a new community and they are somewhat isolated, accessible only by water or air. There are also no amenities, schools, doctors or medical services or employment opportunities on or near these reserves. In addition, there is no electricity or potable water available on a majority of the reserves.