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KCFN, SRD meet to discuss upcoming First Nation inclusion to board

Overview of KCFN given, as well as advice for moving forward
Clockwise from top left are KCFN vice-Chief Kevin Jules, SRD Director Charlie Cornfield, Ecoplan planning associate Hudson McLellan, KCFN representatives Francis Gillette, Samantha Christenson, Lillian Jack, SRD Director Julie Colborne, and Ecoplan planner John Ingraham at the SRD/KCFN meeting. Photo courtesy Youtube.

The Ka:’yu:’k’t’h’/Che:k’tles7et’h’ First Nation (KCFN) is one step closer to joining the Strathcona Regional District, as the two bodies met last week to look into details around the process and what to look forward to after KCFN becomes a full member on April 1, 2021.

The meeting, held on Jan. 28, was the second Regional Governance Meeting of the process, the first was held in October. The two groups have been having smaller meetings over the past few months as well. The meeting agenda included an overview of the project, a profile of the KCFN community, a delegation from John Jack, the chair of the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District Board and the first Indigenous person representing a First Nation to be board chair of a regional district, and a discussion of what is to come next in this process.

Under the Maa-nulth treaty, all signatory Nations (Ucluelet First Nation, Huu-ay-aht First Nations, Toquaht Nation, Ka:’yu:’k’t’h’/Che:k’tles7et’h’ First Nations, and Uchucklesaht Tribe) are required to become members of their Regional Districts and to take part in at least two of the Regional District services: the hospital district and general governance services. The process of KCFN joining has been ongoing since 2013, when the SRD first voted to make a change to the board’s procedure bylaw that recognized treaty First Nations’ participation at the board.

“This project builds on a lot of previous work that was done to support Huu-ay-aht, Ucluelet, Toquaht and Uchucklesaht Tribe in joining the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District as member governments,” said John Ingraham of EcoPlan during the meeting, who is helping facilitate the transition between the groups.

Those four Nations have already joined the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District.

“Members were tired of being forced into residential schools, the queen’s broken promises and the Indian Act’s oppression, the cultural genocide so to speak. In the late 80s and early 90s, members spoke about having control and authority over the land and sea question,” said incoming KCFN director Kevin Jules during the meeting. “We entered into the treaty for our people to have a voice and we need to be the ones to address the situations that come up and find solutions that are best suited to our peoples’ needs.”

Jules gave an overview of the community, including demographic information, as well as geological and economic details about KCFN, as well as a look at the current issues that are affecting the community. One of those issues is housing, which Jules said has been on their radar for some time. The community also plans on building a Big House and Carving Shed, and are looking into various locations to do so.

“With so many Culturally Modified Trees, KCFN government needs to create a CMT policy. Planning for the carving shed is on the way as well,” Jules said.

Huu-ay-aht representative John Jack also spoke about the process of joining the regional district and offered some thoughts for moving ahead. Jack explained that to the Huu-ay-aht First Nation, creating a connection between them and the local government was seen as a good thing.

“There’s always been a bit of a transparent wall between territories about activities undertaken by First Nations on their lands, but also outside of them and the activities, plans and decisions of local governments,” he said. “We have seen in self government that connections and new relationships, with opportunities created by those relationships, are often one of the best routes to creating value economically and smoothing out and normalizing good relationships between local governments and First Nations.”

Jack advised that both sides take the time to observe and integrate with each other, on both a leadership and an administrative level, since the governance systems between regional districts and First Nations are so different.

“The way that we have good and well-intentioned discussions about how your activities and initiatives interact with each other depend on the ability for you to understand the systems and decision making procedures of each side,” he said.

After a break for lunch, Cynthia Blackstone, KCFN’s chief administrative officer continued the community overview presentation, which included a list of challenges that are faced by the community. These, like many other communities in the province, include accessibility, infrastructure, climate change issues and economic issues. For a fly-in community, it can be difficult to ensure prompt emergency response. It also causes infrastructure issues due to the high cost of travel to and from the area. Being situated on the coast, the village of Houpsitas is faced with sea level rise, extreme weather and an increased impact due to climate change on traditional foods. Finally, the economy of the community is based on seasonal resources, tourism and has been affected by COVID-19.

KCFN will formally become a part of the SRD on April 1, and will join the the hospital district and general governance services. Other areas of interest for the Nation will be explored into 2022 and beyond.

RELATED: Island First Nation on track to join Strathcona Regional District board

First Nations get a spot at SRD table

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