The Strathcona Regional District will not support the establishment of a First Nation’s reserve along York Road in a letter to the federal government.
Instead, the regional district will advise Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) that it has not received enough information to comment on the Tlowitsis Nation’s proposal.
Dave Leitch, regional district CAO, told the board at last week’s Wednesday meeting that he determined through discussions with INAC that sending such a letter is preferable to staying silent.
“INAC has advised us that it would be in our best interest to submit a letter to them,” Leitch said. “Not sending anything is not a great idea and sending something – even if we don’t support it – is not taken as offence, it’s not that unusual.
“INAC is clearly aware of the issues and I think they want some correspondence,” Leitch added. “Nothing is not a great idea. If we do that, they’re going to respond with no comment from the SRD.”
Leigh put forward the motion to write to INAC, advising it is lacking concrete information on the Tlowitsis’ proposal and to request that INAC ensures that a comprehensive consultation process is conducted in Area D – where the reserve is slated for establishment.
Campbell River Director Larry Samson said it was a reasonable motion that will allow for more information to come forward.
“I think this says we need more information and it leaves the door open for more consultation,” Samson said. “I will support this motion.”
The Tlowitsis, which have recently added a section to its website (tlowitsisnation.ca) addressing questions and concerns surrounding the proposed reserve, said it is open to public consultation.
“We are willing to share our plans for the proposed development with the SRD and the public for information purposes,” reads the website. “We have reached out to the SRD regarding partnering on one or more public information sessions. Specific details on these meetings will be shared in the weeks and months ahead.”
Leitch also informed the board that the regional district was successful in an application submitted last month to the C2C (Community to Community) process for $5,000 to assist with costs for consultation between the regional district and the Tlowitsis.
Leitch said INAC has offered to attend the C2C forum to outline how the federal Additions to Reserve process works and to address concerns between the two parties.
Leitch said it’s his understanding that the Tlowitsis will be submitting its Additions to Reserve application this month.
The Tlowitsis are proposing to establish a home community for between 100 and 150 of its members over the next 10 to 30 years. The 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.
The Tlowitsis had been in negotiations with TimberWest, the owner of the 630-acre York Road lands (which is roughly the size of downtown Campbell River), to purchase the site since 2011 but the proposal only came to light in March when the Tlowitsis approached the regional district asking for a letter of support.
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.
The Tlowitsis is hoping that its application will be approved before the end of this December.
Once the proposal is approved, the Tlowitsis say it will begin a formal planning process and finalize specific infrastructure plans that would be developed in collaboration with INAC.