Claim settlement cash could change Snuneymuxw fortunes

Acting chief says $49-million land claim settlement will “bring people home.”

The vote to ratify a settlement agreement with Canada over the 79-Acre Claim could be a pivotal point in the modern history of Snuneymuxw First Nation.

The nation voted overwhelmingly to accept more than $49 million from the federal government to redress, in part, the loss of 32 hectares of land on Stewart Avenue unlawfully taken from the Snuneymuxw in the 1880s.

It’s the largest specific claim settlement in B.C. history.

The money will help secure resources and long-term benefits for the community, but with the agreement comes a second critical component, a promise from Canada to receive a Snuneymuxw request for 32 ha to replace reserve land lost nearly 140 years ago. The Snuneymuxw have 266 ha of land split up into four small reserves; the smallest per capita land base – there are about 1,700 Snuneymuxw – of all First Nations in the province.

Little crown land is available in the Nanaimo region for land claim transfers, but former Nanaimo Military Camp acreage has been held by the federal government for treaty settlements. That land, said Doug White III, acting Snuneymuxw chief, is not directly connected to the 79-Acre Claim settlement agreement, but ratification has triggered discussion about negotiation of its transfer to the Snuneymuxw.

“For our nation, two-thirds of the people live off the reserve now because there’s no place to live on the reserve … The way I’ve been talking about this claims settlement is that it becomes, for us, about being able to bring people home,” White said. “The people can come home now because that’s what the real work is. Yes, there are some immediate benefits in terms of the money element of it, but really, the big picture for the nation, this is about creating opportunities for our nation to be whole again in a real way.”

White said he hoped a land transfer agreement can be reached within another year and that Snuneymuxw economic health will have long-term benefits for everyone in the Nanaimo region.

“Obviously, first and foremost, this is about benefitting Snuneymuxw, but certainly, as a side effect, has the potential to be a major benefit to the region as a whole, bringing these lands back into the economy, so to speak,” White said.

When the settlement money is paid, which could be eight to 12 months from now, it will be put into a trust overseen by five Snuneymuxw community trustees and TD Canada Trust, the administrative trustee.

“This allows us to elevate to the next level, with economic development, with addressing our community priorities, addressing our advocacy and land acquisition, so people can come home finally,” said Erralyn Thomas, Snuneymuxw councillor and assistant negotiator.

Thomas said a portion of the settlement payment will be distributed to the nation’s members and the balance of the money will be managed through the trust according to the trust agreement, a 50-page document that specifies long term goals and priorities for application of the revenue and details how those goals and priorities will be achieved through economic development, strengthening of families and culture, educational opportunities and employment.

“We’re proud of that because we engaged the community on what the priorities and the goals of the trust should be, so their voices are in there,” Thomas said.

Primary goals established in the trust agreement include community priorities, title and rights advocacy, economic development and land acquisition.

“It has a huge effect,” Thomas said. “Our per capita household income, on the majority basis, is underneath the poverty line, so we want to change that. We want to make sure they can make enough money so they can put food on their table and they can all stand up on their own and they can look at the world and say, ‘I can do that.’”

Just Posted

B.C. Ferries vessel breaks down right before long weekend

Horseshoe Bay-Langdale route impacted most, two Departure Bay sailings cancelled

Nanaimo man gets jail time for posting explicit photos of ex-girlfriends

Man’s name cannot be revealed to protect victims’ identities

Olympic skier from Nanaimo suing Alpine Canada after coach’s sex offences

Bertrand Charest was convicted in 2017 on 37 charges

Learn to build a telescope with Nanaimo Astronomy Society

Learn how to build or improve a telescope at the society’s meeting Thursday, June 27

Nanaimo police dog’s bark puts a stop to chainsaw theft

Suspect decides bite might be worse than bark when confronted by RCMP service dog Monday

SUV rolls over in crash in north Nanaimo

Accident happened on Rutherford Road on Wednesday afternoon

Readers vote for Nanaimo’s Best of the City

Complete results of the Nanaimo News Bulletin’s 2019 survey

Air North starts up non-stop flights from Nanaimo to Kelowna

Company running charter flights to Watson Lake, Yukon, including stops in Kelowna and Prince George

Fraser Institute releases latest B.C. high school rankings

Fastest improving schools are in cities including Agassiz, Kitimat and 100 Mile House

Nanaimo RCMP issue warning about counterfeit $100 bills

Fake $100 bill successfully passed at pharmacy on Bowen Road this month

Man appealing conviction for drive-by shooting attempt in Nanaimo

Armaan Singh Chandi was sentenced to nine years in jail in B.C. Supreme Court last month

Pirates hang on to beat neighbouring Royals

Nanaimo beats Parksville 2-0 in B.C. Premier Baseball League action

Pedestrian struck by vehicle in Stz’uminus dies from injuries

A male pedestrian was struck in the early morning of June 25

Foot ferry service in Nanaimo won’t happen this summer

Island Ferries says it still needs to secure funding

Most Read