Regional district delays reserve decision despite anxious community

The Strathcona Regional District board has refused to support what one director says is a “totally reasonable position” on a First Nation’s proposal to establish a reserve off York Road.

At last week’s meeting, the board decided to hold off on endorsing a resolution to not provide the Tlowitsis First Nation with a letter of support for its proposed reservation.

The resolution was supported by three of the four electoral directors at the Electoral Area Services Committee meeting May 11 and was before the board for endorsement at its meeting last week.

A majority of municipal directors, including some Campbell River councillors, said they needed more information before making a decision, much to the dismay of Area D Director Brenda Leigh.

“That is a totally reasonable position to take,” Leigh said. “How can we send a letter of support for something we don’t know what we’re supporting? What my community wants, all we asked for, was information and consultation and we did not receive that information.”

Leigh said her community fears the reserve will lower property values and infringe on the rural, quiet lifestyle her constituents are accustomed to. She said in the absence of any concrete development plans, the regional district should stay neutral.

“My community is suffering,” Leigh said. “They’re phoning and emailing me every day. They are in a high state of anxiety over this.”

Campbell River Director Ron Kerr said the board should be listening to Leigh.

“I think we really need to listen to what Director Leigh expresses – the voices of her constituents,” Kerr said. “It’s easy to make decisions about somebody else but the people who live in the communities being directly affected are the voices we need to listen to. I think that’s so important.”

Leigh thanked Kerr “profusely” and said all she’s trying to do is represent her community.

Area C Director Jim Abram agreed with Kerr and said he disagreed with the board’s decision to defer a decision on the electoral area directors’ resolution.

“You just hit the nail on the head when you spoke to the representation issue. I think that’s key,” Abram said.

“There’s no reason to keep a community or a director in a state of anxiety just to put off a decision,” he added.

In the end, however, the majority of the board did vote to defer until its June 15 meeting, with directors Abram, Leigh, Kerr, Marlene Wright and Gerald Whalley opposed.

The board also voted to have the provincial Ministry of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation and the federal Ministry of Aboriginal and Northern Affairs provide the board with an opportunity to further discuss the Additions to Reserve process the Tlowitsis are embarking on.

About the proposal

 

The Tlowitsis are planning to build 75 residential units to accommodate 100-200 of its members on lots 3-8 on the north side of York Road. The purchase agreement with TimberWest hinges on the Tlowitsis getting approval from the federal government, through the Additions to Reserve process, to convert the property to a reservation.

Tlowitsis Coun. Thomas Smith said the Nation is nearing the end of the information gathering process and is preparing to submit its Additions to Reserve application to Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) in the coming weeks.

Both Smith and the regional district have stressed to the public that the land use plan for the York Road site is only a schematic and not a formal plan. A tourist commercial campground and RV park are under consideration by the Tlowitsis but Smith said any land development needs pre-approval by INAC. Smith has told the regional district that the Tlowitsis are open to consultation with the community and that there will be a high level of land use planning upon approval of its Additions to Reserve application.