Working together for a better future

Ladysmith Mayor Rob Hutchins and Stz'uminus First Nation Chief John Elliott emphasize commitment to working together.

Ladysmith Mayor Rob Hutchins (left) and Stz’uminus First Nation Chief John Elliott speak about their commitment to working together during the Ladysmith Chamber of Commerce’s general meeting June 19.

Ladysmith Mayor Rob Hutchins (left) and Stz’uminus First Nation Chief John Elliott speak about their commitment to working together during the Ladysmith Chamber of Commerce’s general meeting June 19.

The Town of Ladysmith and Stz’uminus First Nation are putting a new emphasis on working together for a common goal of creating a better future.

And that was evident last week when Ladysmith Mayor Rob Hutchins and Stz’uminus Chief John Elliott were guest speakers at the Ladysmith Chamber of Commerce’s general meeting June 19 at Page Point Bistro, as they shared speaking notes and talked about  overcoming the past and moving forward together.

Hutchins spoke about how aboriginal people have suffered at the hands of European colonizers for many, many years.

“Even today, although we have made major improvements, marginalization of First Nations and aboriginal people continues,” he said. “And yet, despite the years of grief and suffering, aboriginal people continue to rise with determination and pride and a collective resolve to move forward and ensure a better tomorrow for their children.”

One big step forward occurred when the Town of Ladysmith and the Stz’uminus First Nation signed a renewed Community Accord — called the Naut’sa Mawt (Working Together) Community Accord —  to mark their commitment to work even more closely together on a range of issues on May 25.

“Many things have happened in the past, but we are working together to correct those things,” said Elliott.

The accord symbolizes the two communities’ commitment to better their future, explained Elliott.

“We share the same interests within our communities, so we need to work together to build a community,” he said. “In our culture and tradition, there are symbols we use … paddling together is strong in our culture as a canoe people, and that’s what we wanted to accomplish, is paddling in the same direction to accomplish the same things. The purpose of the Accord is to improve our communication and co-operation for the benefit of all our community.”

“We’re committed,” he emphasized. “We also are going to sign a Protocol and a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that has meaning where we work together, and we have the same common goals and accomplishments that we can help each other as communities and as governments to build a nation.”

The Town of Ladysmith is in the process of completing a three-year Liquid Waste Management Plan and is also in the process of upgrading its sewage treatment plant to secondary treatment.

This will help restore the health of the Ladysmith Harbour, and when the plant is completed, the Town will be able to service 17,500 people — more than two times the current population of 8,200 — with the ability to expand to serve 30,000 people, explained Hutchins.

Completion of the plant will also help the Stz’uminus First Nation, who want to build a significant residential and commercial development behind the Husky station and A&W just north of town and who need access to sanitary sewer for that development to be successful, noted Hutchins.

“The MOU we’re in the process of creating right now will support us working together on this initiative,” he said.

Elliott hopes that completion of an MOU with the Town of Ladysmith will help the Stz’uminus First Nation create a partnership with the town that will clean up DL651 — the lot between the Ladysmith Maritime Society Community Marina and Slack Point known as the Dog Patch — and construct a new marina that will create jobs and economic wealth for both sides of the harbour. As well, Elliott hopes the MOU will help facilitate agreements with the Town to create an industrial park at the south end of Ladysmith, something the Stz’uminus First Nation has hoped for for a long time.

Another initiative the MOU could help with is water access by enabling the Town to access water from Stocking Lake.

“Our goal is to have better access to Stocking Lake, and it involves building a multi-kilometre pipeline from Holland Lake to the intake at Stocking Lake, and this crosses through Crown Land, Stz’uminus First Nation land,” said Hutchins.

Hutchins noted the communities of Shell Beach and Kulleet Bay have to bring in water because they don’t have sufficient access to good water, so the MOU calls for an agreement stating the Town will provide fresh water to Shell Beach and Kulleet Bay when this pipeline is built.

During their presentation, Hutchins and Elliott expressed their commitment to working together numerous times.

“Both of our communities want to be resilient communities,” said Hutchins. “We can do so much more together in creating a better future for all of our children.”

“Stz’uminus is a community that is moving forward and looking to build partnerships and relationships that will build a community, and that’s what we’re doing,” said Elliott. “Even though there’s been many things in the past, we are willing to overcome those to build a future for our children.”