SRD says confusion may have led to backlash

An Area D resident says she’s disappointed the Strathcona Regional District will meet with Tlowitsis in-camera

An Area D resident says she’s “disappointed and disillusioned” by the Strathcona Regional District’s decision to hold a meeting with the Tlowitsis about its reserve proposal behind closed doors.

But the Strathcona Regional District says there has been some confusion surrounding the nature of the meeting.

The Community to Community Forum, scheduled for January, will bring Strathcona Regional District staff and directors and members of the Tlowitsis First Nation together for presentations and community building.

Dave Leitch, regional district CAO, said such meetings are typically held in-camera and are intended for local governments to get to know their neighbours.

“It was never the intent for it to be a public open process,” Leitch said. But Area D resident Janice Langley wrote in her letter that the Area D community is desperately looking for answers and information regarding the Additions to Reserve (ATR) process that the Tlowitsis is going through to try and establish a reservation off of York Road.

“There is a great deal of speculation about this ATR application but there has been no opportunity for the York Road community to learn about the ATR process,” Langley wrote. “For those of us in the community who have properties adjoining the proposed First Nation reserve lands, there is a great deal of apprehension. A total change in the land designation, and the accompanying change in what would be permitted…is the greatest area of concern for us.”

At last Thursday’s regional district meeting, Area D Director Brenda Leigh said Langley’s letter was likely prompted by the fact there has been talk of having public consultation but with no concrete plans for such engagement ever coming to fruition.

“Area D’s been expecting that for a long time,” Leigh said. “There’s kind of an expectation from the community that there would be a public consultation and still there hasn’t been.”

Area C Director Jim Abram said the public needs to understand there is a federal process underway and the first step is for the regional district and Tlowitsis to meet and foster a relationship. A public consultation with Area D would come afterwards. In the end, the board agreed to reply to Langley thanking her for her correspondence and clarifying that two processes are at play – the Community to Community Forum as well as a separate public consultation session.

The Community to Community Forums are a joint effort between the Union of British Columbia Municipalities and the First Nations Summit to bring together First Nations and local governments to open lines of communication and build relationships.