Snuneymuxw First Nation received 877 hectares of land on Mount Benson as part of a reconciliation agreement announced Wednesday at the Vancouver Island Conference Centre.
The agreement, announced by Ida Chong, aboriginal relations and reconciliation minister, between the province and the Snuneymuxw is designed to bring economic benefits to the First Nation and increase certainty for business in the Nanaimo area. Chong called the agreement a milestone in the B.C. government’s relationship with Snuneymuxw First Nation.
“It is based on a foundation of respect and trust, which our two governments can build on for the future for this region and in particular for young people and generations to come,” Chong said.
Three parcels of land, totalling 877 hectares in the Mount Benson area, are intended to provide forestry-related economic opportunities to generate revenue and employment.
Chong said the properties would also offer potential economic opportunities for private sector partnerships.
A site where First Nations remains were found in Departure Bay was also transferred to Snuneymuxw.
The agreement also creates engagement protocols to exchange information on the Douglas Treaty, to discuss requirements to establish a framework for land-use referrals, and to start a dialogue on the future use and management of the Nanaimo River Estuary. Snuneymuxw First Nation’s operating permit for Newcastle Island Marine Provincial Park will be extended for two years and there will also be discussion of possible longer-term management arrangements.
Snuneymuxw will be allowed to maintain their presence on the island and create economic opportunities for their people.
Doug White III, Snuneymuxw First Nation chief, discussed the difficulties his people have faced living on a 16-hectare reserve.
“It’s our responsibility and duty to our people – to the young ones the minister (Chong) referred to – to the next generations, to do what we can to make sure what we leave to the next generation is a better situation than the one that we were born into,” White said.
He said Snuneymuxw have been standing up to governments since before Canada became a nation to get them to pay attention to treaty relationships.
“This agreement will also create an environment in which issues of concern to Snuneymuxw can more easily be resolved at the local level,” Chong said. “To assist with negotiation and developing a more effective consultation process our B.C. government is contributing an initial $50,000 to the Snuneymuxw First Nation.”
Chong credited Parksville-Qualicum MLA Ron Cantelon for his continued work over several years to help bring the agreement to fruition.
“He has been relentless in ensuring that this day would happen,” Chong said.