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5 Island First Nations sign deal with B.C. to work together, government to government

Pact with Cowichan, Halalt, Penelakut, Stz’uminus and Lyackson intended to advance reconciliation
Cowichan Tribes’ Chief William Seymour, also known as Squtxulenuhw, was one of the five chiefs of the Cowichan Nation to sign an agreement with the province to work cooperatively to advance reconciliation. (File photo)

The province and Cowichan (Quw’utsun) Nation, made up of five Indigenous bands, have signed an agreement to advance reconciliation, work collaboratively on key priorities and support self-determination and self-government.

Joining Murray Rankin, minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, and Katrine Conroy, minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, for a signing ceremony at the B.C. parliament buildings on Sept. 14 were Squtxulenuhw, Chief William Seymour, of Cowichan Tribes; Whul’qul’latza’aat, Chief Roxanne Harris of Stz’uminus First Nation; Kwaliimtunaat, Chief Joan Brown of Penelakut Tribe; Sulsimutsun, Chief James Thomas, of Halalt First Nation; and Pahalicktun, Chief Richard Thomas, of Lyackson First Nation.

Under the agreement the province and Cowichan Nation will work collaboratively on key priorities.

They include implementing Cowichan Nation laws, traditions, customs and practices; advancing Cowichan Nation self-determination and self-government; co-operative decision-making and dispute resolution; and identifying opportunities for economic and socio-cultural well-being.

The agreement establishes formal governance structures, including a political forum with annual leadership meetings between chiefs and ministers to strengthen the collaborative working relationship between the two governments, and a solutions forum to identify issues or concerns early and work together proactively to find solutions.

A board to oversee implementation will also be established.

Rankin said the government-to-government relationship with Cowichan Nation is based on a recognition of rights.

“I look forward to continuing to build our relationship so we can address challenges collaboratively and build opportunities that will benefit all members of Cowichan Nation, and everyone who lives in the territory,” he said.

Seymour (Squtxulenuhw) thanked the province for working on this agreement.

“This is a bit of a process,” he said.

“We shouldn’t have to do this for our Aboriginal Rights and Title.”

Doug Routley, MLA for Nanaimo-North Cowichan, said all participants in the process have the shared goal of building working relationships that will empower all involved to work on challenging issues together through discussion and negotiation.

“This agreement helps set out the structures needed to address shared interests and improve communication,” he said.