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Feds, B.C. First Nation sign letter of understanding

Wednesday, August 28, 2019 @ 12:04 PM | By John Chunn

Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada announced Aug. 26 that Ottawa and the Snuneymuxw First Nation have signed a letter of understanding committing them to move forward together to renew and strengthen the historic treaty relationship and take the next step on meaningful reconciliation of the governance and rights of the Snuneymuxw peoples.

The Snuneymuxw First Nation entered into a Nation-to-Nation Treaty with the Crown on Dec. 23, 1854 (“the Douglas Treaty”).

According to the government’s press release, through the Letter of Understanding, Canada and the Snuneymuxw First Nation have agreed to explore a number of key topics and priorities that would support the negotiation of nation-to-nation reconciliation agreements. Topics include matters under the Douglas Treaty of 1854 related to historic village sites, fishing and hunting rights, as well as other topics including decision making and governance over lands and resources; self-determination and self-government; fiscal relations; child and family protection and renewal; health of community members; community planning and development; housing; and community infrastructure.
As a first step towards concrete progress under the Letter of Understanding, Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations Carolyn Bennett also confirmed Canada’s commitment to reaching agreement with Snuneymuxw First Nation on the terms of the transfer of the former Department of Defence “Camp Nanaimo” property to Snuneymuxw First Nation. Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada acquired this property in 2003 for reconciliation purposes with Snuneymuxw.

“The government of Canada is working with the Snuneymuxw First Nation to recognize and implement Snuneymuxw's Aboriginal and Treaty Rights, and to advance reconciliation in the spirit and intent of honouring the Pre-Confederation Treaty of 1854,” said Bennett. “Today's signing is an important step to support the Snuneymuxw vision for self-determination, and for a clear pathway to resolve issues that have been outstanding for many years.”

“The affirmation of our historic treaty with the Crown, entered into by Governor James Douglas on behalf of the Crown in 1854 and upheld by our peoples over time, is of utmost significance today and into the future,” said Chief Michael Wyse of the Snuneymuxw First Nation. “Our people agreed to welcome settlers in our territory provided we maintained our villages and fields, waters and could sustain our way of life, language, customs, traditions and form of government. Much was done over the years to deny or erase our rights, and today marks the end of that era with Canada. Now we embark on a reconciliation path with Canada which will lead to many positive practical measures as set out in our Letter of Understanding. For example, the designation of the former Camp Nanaimo lands for the peoples of the Snuneymuxw First Nation will give us the opportunity to work toward having newly reserved lands to build opportunities for economic reconciliation and improved resources and services for all of our citizens, and especially with our partners, the City of Nanaimo and Vancouver Island University.”