Representatives of the Snuneymuxw First Nation and the City of Nanaimo, including Chief Mike Wyse and Mayor Leonard Krog, prepare to sign a protocol agreement today, May 27, at the Snuneymuxw Longhouse. (NICHOLAS PESCOD/The News Bulletin)

City of Nanaimo, Snuneymuxw First Nation renew reconciliation efforts

Municipal and First Nation governments sign protocol agreement

It was an “important milestone” for Nanaimo city council and the Snuneymuxw First Nation.

Nanaimo mayor and council and Snuneymuxw band council signed a renewed protocol agreement on Monday, May 27, during a ceremony at the Snuneymuxw Longhouse. Monday’s ceremony was also attended by elders and high-ranking city staff members.

The newly signed protocol agreement aims to strengthen their government-to-government relationship as part of a continued effort to advance reconciliation.

“The purpose of this protocol is to deepen the government-to-government relationship between the parties and establish a collaborative process that will meaningfully advance reconciliation and lead to a resolution of shared opportunities, agreements and mutual benefits,” the protocol reads.

A protocol agreement between the Snuneymuxw First Nation and the City of Nanaimo has existed since the mid-2000s. However, the agreement signed by leaders on Monday includes newer language, particularly around reconciliation. The new agreement is also based around guiding principles of a “spirit of co-operation,” good faith and trust. It seeks to “deepen the understanding for one another” through reconciliation and through respect for each government’s area of jurisdiction. As part of the agreement, both levels of government will meet at least six times per year in carrying out the responsibilities of the protocol agreement.

Nanaimo Mayor Leonard Krog told the News Bulletin that council members were honoured to participate in the ceremony and that since election, council has made it a priority to rebuild relations with the Snuneymuxw.

“There is a real desire to move forward in every way possible. Council is anxious to do it and this ceremony was a way to mark a really important milestone on that journey,” he said, adding that even if there are “bumps in the road” in the future, council will not “get off” the road.

Krog said there were a lot of conversations between both councils about what they wanted in the document and how it was to be phrased, adding that it has some revisions and a “new spirit.” He said council was pleased to have been part of such an important moment.

Speaking to the News Bulletin afterwards, Chief Mike Wyse said the ceremony and signing is a significant moment for the Snuneymuxw and a positive step forward.

“This is a very exciting opportunity for Snuneymuxw and we’re very happy to have this day come forward in a good way,” he said. “We’re looking forward to the future.”

The protocol signing and ceremony comes a little less than two years after the Snuneymuxw First Nation asked for the removal of their flag from city hall amid tensions with Nanaimo council at the time.

Wyse said while there were communication breakdowns in the past, the current city council is including the Snuneymuxw in discussions and has recognized the importance of building a relationship. He said the protocol agreement will help guide both councils at times when either side might have questions.

“With this protocol agreement signing, we have this document that can guide us and when we come across decisions that either side may have questions about, this will help us,” he said. “We are happy to have that.”

Wyse also stressed the need for both councils to look ahead and move forward together.

“This [Nanaimo] council coming in has taken that approach and so have we,” he said. “Sitting down together and moving forward together, that is what we need to do.”

Asked whether the Snuneymuxw flag could return to city hall in the near future, Wyse said it could be possible.

“That will be the next order of business that we can bring to the table,” he said. 
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