The B.C. government has agreed to transfer thousands of acres of Crown land overlooking Nanaimo to the Snuneymuxw First Nation, which will drop litigation against the government.
In a statement, nation Chief Mike Wyse and Premier John Horgan said the reconciliation and land transfer agreements included 3,000 acres (12 square kilometres) of land near the City of Nanaimo, including the culturally and economically significant Mount Benson and Mount McKay.
“The agreements … with Snuneymuxw and British Columbia mark a major step forward in a journey that goes back to the important promises and understandings that formed the basis of our treaty relationship with the Crown when Sir James Douglas entered into a treaty with our people in 1854,” Wyse said.
As part of the agreements, the Snuneymuxw First Nation will stop litigation launched against the province in 2001 over concerns that log booming in the Nanaimo River estuary harmed its Douglas Treaty rights to fish.
Scott Fraser, minister of Indigenous relations and reconciliation, said the Snuneymuxw had been working with forestry companies to reinvigorate the forest industry in the region and in 2017 signed the Mid-Island Regional Forestry Initiative with TimberWest, Nanaimo Forest Products, Western Forest Products and Coastland Wood Industries.
The 2017 deal is linked to Sunday’s announcement and included a promise of 160 First Nations forestry jobs after unlocking close to 6,000 acres (24 square kilometres) for timber harvest.
Forests Minister Doug Donaldson said the recent agreements would increase First Nations’ participation in the forest economy and provide predictability for log storage operations in the Nanaimo River estuary.
Neither Fraser or Donaldson will be running in the next provincial election.
According to the government, public engagement on Snuneymuxw’s plans for the Mount Benson and Mount McKay lands will be a priority before the eventual transfer of the lands.
Snuneymuxw will allow access to The Great Trail of Canada through the lands and conserve land on Mount McKay for elk and deer, the statement said.
The government has begun consultation with other First Nations whose traditional territory is part of the Snuneymuxw deal. The Mount McKay parcel overlaps Stz’uminus First Nation’s traditional territory and each of the Hul’qumi’num treaty group member First Nations (Cowichan Tribes, Halalt, Lyackson, Ts’uubaa-asatx and Penelakut). The Mount Benson parcel overlaps with Snaw-naw-as First Nation.