The Wei Wai Kum First Nation and B.C. government have signed an incremental treaty agreement that will give the nation more than 22 square kilometres of its territorial land back.
Incremental treaty agreements give First Nations and the province shared benefits, such as forestry tenures and economic benefits, in advance of a final agreement. They don’t replace treaty agreements.
Chief Chris Roberts said this agreement has been in the works for 25 years, and hopes it won’t be another 20 years before the land transfer is complete.
“It’s a significant chunk of land that we’re getting back,” he told CBC’s On the Island.
“This incremental agreement will help to build our internal capacity and our confidence of what we can do as far as managing our lands and resources and working with other stakeholders in our territory.”
He described the agreement as a sign of good faith from the government.
“Treaties are one of the most important pathways to reconciliation,” Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation Murray Rankin said in a press release.
Roberts said having this land, which is just west of Campbell River, B.C., will give his First Nation control over land management, particularly when it comes to forestry.
Forests Minister Katrine Conroy said the agreement ensures Wei Wai Kum benefits from forestry on their territorial lands.
“The province and First Nations both benefit from a thriving, sustainable forestry sector,” she said.
According to the province, the agreement represents an allowable annual timber harvest of more than 17,000 cubic metres, valued at about $1.2 million per year.
Roberts said forestry will continue, but they’re planning for more “modest” harvests.
The area is also home to a few small campsites, something Roberts says the Wei Wai Kum First Nation values and plans to enhance for both their own members and the public.
“I recreate with my family there. I have since I was a child,” Roberts said.
“We recognize the values that it has to the community for recreation.”
Any economic benefits from the agreement will help the nation build up programs and services for its members, and ultimately drive it toward self-determination, Roberts said.
On The Island7:19Over 2,000 hectares of land has now been returned to the Wei Wai Kum First Nation. We spoke with Chief Chris Roberts about the significance of the province’s land transfer to his community.