“By working together all parties are creating a win-win situation,” Murray Rankin, B.C. Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, said.
Rankin was speaking to a room full of invited guests, including members of the Stz’uminus First Nation council and Elders, MLA Doug Routley, Ladysmith Town Council and others, at the signing of a new reconciliation agreement between the Stz’uminus First Nation and the province of B.C. The event was held on June 29 at the Microtel Hotel at Oyster Bay.
The agreement sets the commitments of working side by side on priorities, land transfers, economic development for the Stz’uminus community and sets funding for environment remediation of Ladysmith Harbour.
“There has been a lot of hard work that has gone into the negotiation of this agreement,” said Stz’uminus Chief Roxanne Harris. “Stz’uminus looks forward to next steps in the implementation.”
“Together with Stz’uminus First Nation, we’ve jointly come up with a Reconciliation Agreement that aligns with the needs, values, and aspirations of the Nation,” Rankin said. “Furthermore, this agreement will lead to future economic development opportunities in the Ladysmith region.”
In a statement from Mayor Aaron Stone from Ladysmith, he said, “We are thankful to the provincial government for taking this critical step on the path to reconciliation with Stz’uminus. It has long been a shared goal to clean up the legacy of industrial contamination in Ladysmith Harbour and this investment is one step closer to that goal. There is a long journey ahead and we continue to support Chief and Council, of the Stz’uminus community, in their goals.”
Stone went on to state, “Cleaning up the harbour will restore the ecological and cultural values of the lands and waters, as well as to provide economic opportunity and social benefit to Stz’uminus community and all who live, work and play in their beautiful territory.”
In a press release, from the province, Rankin said, “The province is looking to build new pathways to reconciliation, in partnership with Nations. By working collaboratively with Stz’uminus, we have come up with an agreement that includes a framework for future discussions related to revenue sharing, self-government, increasing Stz’uminus participation in the forestry sector, cultural, economic and social supports, something that is deeply important to both the Nation and the province.”
The agreement is an apparatus to use toward both sides working on potential provincial crown lands for transfer as well as a commitment to agreements on land transfers as much as $28.5 million. The implementation of the agreement will be an undertaking over several years.
Included in the agreement is a further $3 million for immediate benefits to support the community’s economic development, which could include acquiring private land(s) that lie within its territory.
There are also objectives for both parties to work on future agreements related to forestry and resources stewardship.
In addition, the province is providing Stz’uminus with $10 million over five years to support Stz’uminus-led remediation in key Crown land areas of Ladysmith harbour with the goal of supporting the Nations land acquisition and management plans within the harbour.
“I am so proud of the work our government has undertaken to further meaningful reconciliation with First Nations from investments in housing and language restoration to enshrining the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples into legislation these have been some of the proudest moments in my time as MLA,” said Doug Routley, MLA. “However, nothing compares to seeing this work happen on a local level and I am so happy to see this agreement signed between the Stz’uminus First Nation and our government. Thank you to Chief Harris, current council members and past leaderships, whose advocacy and dedication made this agreement possible.”
Stz’uminus has approximately 1,300 members, with approximately half of the Nations members living on reserve.