Thanks and celebration were a theme when the councils from the Stz’uminus First Nation and the Town of Ladysmith came together Nov. 25 at the Ladysmith Maritime Society Welcome Centre.
Following a celebration dinner, the two councils signed a Water and Sewer Services Agreement for the Town of Ladysmith to provide water and sanitary services to Stz’uminus Reserve Lands in the Oyster Bay and Kulleet Bay and Shell Beach areas, and outgoing mayor Rob Hutchins was honoured with a traditional blanketing ceremony.
“It is a celebration for our communities, and I think it’s something we can move forward,” said Stz’uminus First Nation Chief John Elliott.
Council members of the Stz’uminus First Nation and the Town of Ladysmith first signed a Community Accord in 2007, pledging to strengthen their relationship and work together on matters of common interest. In 2012, the two councils renewed these commitments under the Naut’sa mawt Community Accord (which means “working together” in the Hul’qumi’num language).
The Water and Sewer Services Agreement stems from the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed between the two communities in October 2012. It states that the Town of Ladysmith will provide water and sanitary services for 1,000 connections to the Stz’uminus First Nation’s IR12 Reserve Lands (Oyster Bay) and for 500 connections to the Stz’uminus IR13 Reserve Lands (Kulleet Bay and Shell Beach), plus potential capacity for additional units in the future.
Servicing of the first 100 units on IR12 began in 2012 and continued into 2013.
In a Joint Community Report presented during the community dinner, the Stz’uminus First Nation and Ladysmith councils say that next on the priority list are a Water and Sewer Services Agreement for the remaining 900 units at IR12 and 500 units at IR13; a joint planning initiative for the waterfront and Ladysmith Harbour; inclusion of Stz’uminus First Nation’s history and place names in the Hul’qumi’num language as part of the Town’s new interpretive signage program; and co-ordination of water system rights of way on Crown Land.
Hutchins says 2012 was a “watershed” year, when the Stz’uminus and Ladysmith councils signed the Naut’sa mawt Community Accord.
“What followed that accord in May 2012 was a progress report in terms of how we do business together and an MOU, which all led to the Services Agreement,” he said. “We had to figure a way to manage the expectations in the MOU and the expectations in this, and I’m glad we had the tenacity and the vision that we were going to continue to work together.”
“The Services Agreement, it’s a powerful document because it is the foundation of going forward,” he added.
Hutchins spoke about the importance of bridging the gap between the two communities, noting that when the two councils first got together in 2006, there was a lot of silence, and they had very little relationship and no friendship.
“We have stumbled along the way, but I am so proud that we’re able to celebrate because we are passing on to others that follow a very different world for our two communities, and I’m optimistic that the foundation that’s been laid is going to take us to a place where all our children can enjoy and flourish and thrive in this beautiful land of the Stz’uminus First Nation,” said Hutchins.
Hutchins also recognized Town staff and the Ladysmith Maritime Society for building bridges.
Elliott also spoke about building, and about the importance of moving forward.
“We just keep building for the next leaders, so 10 years down the road, they don’t battle the same issues we had to,” he said. “I want to thank everyone on behalf of the Stz’uminus. It’s important that we do this. It’s important that we move forward. … It’s about wanting to make a difference, and we’ve all done it. All we’re going to do is continue to build.”
During the evening, Hutchins and his wife Susan were honoured with a traditional blanketing ceremony, which acknowledges a new path in life and represents the protecting embrace of the entire Stz’uminus First Nation.
“We want to honour Rob for his dedication to our communities and his hard work and his inspiration of always trying to make things work for all of us as a community and making sure we’re always coming together and finding common ground to move forward,” said Elliott. “We just want to, on behalf of Stz’uminus, do a ceremony that Rob can look back and say we do care, we do appreciate the hard work you’ve done on behalf of the town. We want to do a blanketing ceremony so he can someday say ‘I need something to lean on or something to hold me,’ and this is what we do to make sure we help guide the next steps you’re going to take in your career.”