The Province of British Columbia and Snuneymuxw First Nation have reached two agreements that will bring economic opportunities to the central Vancouver Island region and help support a strong and stable future for Snuneymuxw First Nation and its members.
The Reconciliation Implementation Framework Agreement describes how the Province and Snuneymuxw First Nation will work together to improve people’s lives and implement Treaty and Aboriginal rights and title over time.
The Land Transfer Agreement will return ownership of two areas of culturally and economically significant Crown land in the Nanaimo area to Snuneymuxw First Nation. Both agreements build on a previous Reconciliation Agreement signed with the Province in 2013, and the strong foundation provided by the Snuneymuxw Sarlequun Treaty of 1854.
Together, the two agreements create a shared vision for how the provincial government and Snuneymuxw First Nation will work together to advance reconciliation and self-determination. The agreements will help bring economic opportunities for people and bring more clarity for industry operating in Snuneymuxw’s traditional territory. They will also help build better, stronger relationships between Snuneymuxw First Nation, the provincial government, business, and industry in the region. This includes innovative forestry partnerships, leading to economic growth that will benefit the entire region.
Reconciliation Implmentation Framework Agreement
The Reconciliation Agreement sets out a path for long-term reconciliation between Snuneymuxw First Nation and B.C. It has several key components, with a priority being to promote regional economic development through partnerships with local businesses. The Agreement includes forestry initiatives (including log handling), planning the future of Saysutshun (Newcastle Island Marine) Provincial Park, and a plan for how Snuneymuxw First Nation and the provincial government will approach future negotiations on a number of topics.
The Reconciliation Agreement helps the Province and Snuneymuxw First Nation to resolve outstanding issues in the Nanaimo River estuary and supports everyone involved to be clear about economic activities there. This added stability and clarity for industry, as well as an increase in Snuneymuxw’s own forestry activity and a commitment to creating partnerships, will help to increase economic development throughout the region.
Under the Agreement, Snuneymuxw First Nation continues to be the operator of Saysutshun (Newcastle Island Marine) Provincial Park, which is a sacred village site of the Snuneymuxw People. The Province and Snuneymuxw First Nation will work together to improve access to the island and explore ways the park can better reflect the deep cultural history and connection Snuneymuxw have to the land.
The Reconciliation Agreement outlines several areas that are still to be negotiated. One of the most important future discussions with Snuneymuxw First Nation will be about self government and joint decision making in areas where authority is shared. These are complex topics; however, negotiations and collaborative implementation of the Agreement have already begun.
Future negotiations will also include identifying further opportunities for economic development, protecting Snuneymuxw’s cultural and historical resources, and recognition and support for Snuneymuxw First Nation’s management of social programs related to children and families, housing, health and education.
Land Transfer Agreement
Crown land in the Nanaimo region is quite limited and while Snuneymuxw is one of the largest First Nations in the province by population, it has one of the smallest reserve land bases in B.C. compared to how many people belong to the Nation. To help address this, the Province and Snuneymuxw First Nation have completed negotiations that will return a total of 3,100 hectares of Crown land on Mt. Benson and Mt. McKay near the City of Nanaimo to the Nation.
Before lands are officially transferred and returned back to Snuneymuxw First Nation, the Nation and the Province must take a number of steps. Consultations with neighboring First Nations on the land transfers are a priority. There must also be specific environmental protections put in place, and arrangements for continued public access to specific areas of the land parcels. The process to transfer the land parcels to Snuneymuxw First Nation will occur incrementally over the next two years.
Some of the lands at Mt. McKay and Mt. Benson have been designated by the provincial government for many years as timber for harvest, but were set aside while negotiations with Snuneymuxw First Nation continued. As a result, the land has remained in its natural state and used by the public for recreation. Snuneymuxw First Nation will maintain public access to the TransCanada Trail, and the Spruston Staging Area and plans to use other areas for economic development.
Feedback was provided to:
MIRR.Coast@gov.bc.ca at the Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, Coast Region.
- Engagement with the public, stakeholders and local government has been ongoing since 2020, with the govTogether public website launched in April 2021.
Online and in-person engagement was completed by the Province and Snuneymuxw collaboratively. Public comments have been received through the govTogether website email contact and through in-person stakeholder engagement. Feedback has been supportive of land return to Snuneymuxw First Nation and creating certainty for future economic development for industry within the Nanaimo region. Feedback also emphasized the importance of maintaining recreational access to the TransCanada Trail and the Spruston Staging Area on Mount McKay.
Input Leads to Action
Public input on current recreational uses has fostered important relationships between Snuneymuxw and recreational user groups on Mount McKay, such as the Back Country Horesmen of BC. The Nation and the Province will continue to keep the public informed and get input as plans for the land transfer are developed.
• Read the full Reconciliation Agreement
More information on the history of reconciliation with Snuneymuxw Nation