A historic land code vote earlier this week gives the Snaw-naw-as First Nation control of its own economic future without the interference of government red tape.
Members of the Nanoose band voted to remove reserve land, nearly 65 hectares, from the Indian Act. Of the 160 eligible voters, 100 of whom live on reserve, 79 voted yes to approve the Te’mewx Snaw-naw-as Mustimxw Land Code. Nine voted against the process.
“I’m excited and ecstatic. It’s a history-making vote for Nanoose so we can forge ahead and control our own destiny,” said Tom Bob, a Snaw-naw-as councillor and land manager. “It will not only create more economic opportunities for Nanoose, but will also help benefit mainstream society.”
The vote means the band no longer has to go through the government to get initiatives or projects approved, Bob said, adding it took years for a decision, which many businesses were unwilling to endureand many opportunities were lost.
“It was a very long bureaucratic process,” he said.
Bob said essentially everything remains status quo on the reserve – people with leases or permits in place will remain unaffected.
The nation hasn’t engaged in any talks with businesses regarding future opportunities; however, it has sent out a call for proposals to see if there are any interested parties.
Nanoose joins about 35 other nations, out of 80 across Canada, that have passed land code votes.
Chief Robert Louie of the Westbank First Nation, chairman of the First Nations Land Advisory Board, said the vote gives the Nanoose First Nation total jurisdiction over its land.
“It has promoted economic development in almost every community, eliminating red-tape,” said Louie. “That community did a tremendous job in recognizing the opportunity.”
He expects band will receive support from others that have made the change to help navigate the first few hurdles in taking over governance of its lands.