One aspect of the recent Bamfield Road upgrade announcement that deserves attention is the partnership between the Huu-ay-aht First Nations and the Province of British Columbia.
Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation Scott Fraser, also MLA for Mid Island-Pacific Rim, announced a $30-million project that will see the government spend $25.7 million and the Huu-ay-aht First Nations another $5 million to chipseal the 76-kilometre road.
The industrial logging road is more than simply access to logging areas or the communities of Bamfield and Anacla at its end: it is a road to opportunity for a busy First Nation.
“Their partnership is central to this important project, which will support reconciliation goals, our treaty relationship and, most importantly, safer travel for Huu-ay-aht members to and from their community,” Fraser said.
Huu-ay-aht leaders recognized that partnership too, standing with Fraser on the steps of the B.C. Legislature to make the road announcement.
“By working in a respectful way with Huu-ay-aht to make upgrades to Bamfield Road a reality, we see that the Province is ready to work on true reconciliation with First Nations and is honouring the importance of the safety of our community,” Chief Councillor Robert Dennis Sr. said.
“The upgrades they announced (Friday) will make Bamfield and Anacla safer places to live, and it will open up economic opportunities for our communities to prosper together in the future.”
Tayii Hawil (Hereditary Chief) Derek Peters said the partnership shows the Province of BC is honouring Huu-ay-aht elders and the Nation’s sacred principles of ?iisaak (utmost respect), ?uu?aluk (taking care of) and Hisuk ma c’awak (everything is one). It has been a difficult, 20-year journey: eight Huu-ay-aht members died in accidents on the Bamfield Road prior to the two University of Victoria students who lost their lives in the bus crash in September 2019. One of those Huu-ay-aht members was Peters’ own grandfather, also the Tayii Hawil at the time, Art Peters.
“It is tragic that it took the loss of so many to highlight the need for chipsealing the road, but we honour the ones we have lost by doing everything we can to prevent the loss of life along this vital link in the future,” Derek Peters said.
Partnerships may well be considered Fraser’s legacy. He announced the following week that he won’t seek re-election.
Fraser’s only ministerial role has been as Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation. Even though he claims the role taught him all that he didn’t know, he took his newfound knowledge and made ground-breaking progress with it.
The Bamfield Road relationship is just one: he also helped smooth the way with the Wet’suwet’en First Nations over the Transmountain Pipeline. And in 2018, he helped the five Maa-nulth Nations create a government-to-government agreement with B.C. that finally put the nations on a level playing field with the provincial government.
Reconciliation does not mean give and take. It’s a coming together of individual knowledge and strengths with respect for each other. Fraser got that: the Province of B.C. seems to be getting it too, finally.
Let’s hope the work Fraser started does not stop with his retirement.
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— Susie Quinn is the Alberni Valley News editor. For more news from Vancouver Island and beyond delivered daily into your inbox, please click here.