First Nations within the Strathcona region are getting the chance to participate as observers in Strathcona Regional District board meetings.
The board is extending invitations to all local First Nations to sit at the board table as participating observers, albeit without the ability to vote on board matters. The arrangement would be similar to a previous one with now-Ka:’yu:’k’t’h’/Che:k’tles7et’h’ First Nations (KCFN) Director Kevin Jules had when KCFN was finalizing its treaty agreement.
“I sat at the table as an observer for quite a lengthy time,” Jules said during the board’s May 11 meeting. “I was part of discussions that I needed to be a part of.”
Jules became a full director with voting privileges representing KCFN in April 2021
Now those participant observer privileges are being extended to other First Nations in the area.
Kyuquot/Nootka-Sayward director Gerald Whalley asked about the difference between participating as observers and just sitting in the audience at board meetings.
“I don’t understand the significance,” he said.
Chief administrative officer David Leitch said that it was the ability to participate in discussion that mattered.
However, Whalley was still questioning the move, saying “In the past, observation was for First Nations who were in the treaty process and were nearing completion of that treaty.
“For those who aren’t and who aren’t even considering the treaty process, I think it’s inappropriate.”
Quadra Island director Jim Abram agreed with Whalley, saying that “to have them at the table is almost like having them as directors.”
Campbell River Director Andy Adams praised the letter before asking staff “do we have enough room in the board room?”
Leitch said that they have ordered “extra infrastructure” but fitting people should not be a problem.
The discussion came as a response to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs, which sent correspondence in January to the Mayors and Regional District Chairs of B.C. detailing how the province’s draft action plan on the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act is more inclusive to First Nations governments.
The SRD board will be sending a letter to the ministry saying that the regional district “supports the involvement of all First Nations in the Strathcona Regional District as observers to our meetings. As a result of the relationships that can be built through such involvement, the Regional District will be better positioned to navigate the many paths leading to true reconciliation.”