The Strathcona Regional District is making progress towards adopting a policy to have territorial acknowledgements at the beginning of their meetings and public hearings.
The matter was up for discussion at the Dec. 8 SRD board meeting, but it was deferred back to the First Nations Relations committee to hammer out some wording in the proposed acknowledgement.
During the meeting, Electoral Area A director Gerald Whalley questioned the use of the word “unceded” in the acknowledgements, saying that “when Provincial government negotiators came in and made a presentation to the board they were very careful not to use the word ‘unceded.’”
“I know that First Nations promote this. Provincial Government, as I understand, does not,” he said. “I think we are in risky territory by doing that. There could… potentially be legal consequences to using that term.”
Unceded means that those First Nations people never legally signed away their lands to the Crown or to Canada.
However, other directors disagreed with Whalley. Kyuquot/Cheklesahht First Nation director Kevin Jules said that he had “never heard that before.”
“It’s a first for me to hear… anyone not wanting to acknowledge that it’s unceded.”
Directors Claire Moglove and Julie Colburne agreed that the term should be used when necessary, because as Moglove said “the fact of the matter is that the territories are unceded. It’s a fact.”
“I wouldn’t consider not using it,” Colburne said.
Corporate Services manager Tom Yates clarified that the intent of the policy was to provide leeway depending on the individual circumstances. For example, some First Nations within the SRD have not ceded their territories, while Kyuquot/Cheklesahht is under treaty and refers to their territories as Treaty Lands.
Director Andy Adams also noted that through the staff report document, there were some inconsistencies in how the proposed acknowledgements were written, and suggested that the item be referred back to the committee to bring more consistency. That motion was passed.
Whalley also asked that the regional district get an opinion from the Province about “what’s appropriate.”