The District of Central Saanich and the leadership of the Tsawout and Tsartlip already collaborate, such as lobbying together for a bus route extension into Tsawout. The District will begin acknowledging the traditional territory upon which they live and work. (Hugo Wong/News Staff file photo)

Central Saanich, Comox, adding First Nations acknowledgement

Two more Island municipalities are taking steps to acknowledge First Nations during the course of conducting their business.

The first page of Courtenay council agenda packages will now include a statement acknowledging that the land on which members gather is unceded territory of the K’ómoks First Nation.

At its April 3 meeting, council approved a recommendation from Rebecca Lennox, who looks forward to building stronger bonds with the KFN.

“It seemed long past due, and it felt like the right thing to do,” Lennox said. “I have such great respect for First Nations culture and people, and am so grateful to live here.”

Meanhwile, Central Saanich council meetings will soon begin with an acknowledgment of traditional lands they reside on. Central Saanich is on the traditional territory of the Tsartlip and Tsawout First Nations.

In a council meeting last Tuesday, a motion by Councillor Carl Jensen passed unanimously.

Jensen said the idea came about when he saw a tweet from a Saanich councillor referencing a March 2018 Black Press story about Island municipalities that acknowledge territory before meetings. He did not realize other municipalities did this, and noticed Central Saanich was not on the list of municipalities that did.

“It has become commonplace when I go to any public event: conference openings, training sessions, how it’s become a regular tradition there…It had me asking, well, why aren’t we doing it in Central Saanich and especially because we have two First Nations as part of our community, it seemed especially appropriate,” said Jensen. “I realized we should be on that list of municipalities that’s actually doing this.”

Jensen emailed the chiefs of Tsartlip and Tsawout to see if they had feedback for him. He heard through Mayor Ryan Windsor that Tsartlip chief Don Tom was on board, and Tsawout council members said the same.

In an email to the Peninsula News Review, Tsawout councillor Mavis Underwood said the Tsawout “felt that this important historical gesture was well overdue.”

Since Truth and Reconciliation Commission findings from 2015, verbal acknowledgment of public meetings and civic events on traditional Indigenous territory has increased across Canada.

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