VICTORIA -- The Capital Regional District (CRD) is one step closer to the inclusion of local First Nations when it comes to decision making in the region.

In a unanimous vote made earlier this week, the CRD’s First Nations Relations Committee endorsed staff recommendations to move forward with a report that would pave the way for the inclusion of First Nations on committees, select committees, commissions and board-appointed bodies.

The Mayor of Esquimalt, Barb Desjardins, who is also a CRD director and member of the First Nations Relations Committee, said the vote was an important step.

"This is all about improving and continuing to engage First Nations to have better dialogue — to have better decision making on our part with that understanding of how things are affecting everyone in the region, not just municipalities or electoral districts."

Desjardins says the move comes after many years of dialogue, consultation and planning between CRD staff, committee members and First Nations in the region.

"The Capital Regional District has done a lot of work in terms of reconciliation, in terms of First Nations relationships," she said.

The report from staff says local First Nations have previously approached the CRD with interest in being part of the board and its committee structure. The report outlined how First Nations expressed a desire for more involvement in discussions and decisions that may impact them.

The road for local First Nations to becoming full board members on the CRD will not be a short one, however.

Provincial legislation within the Local Government Act limits full First Nations participation and voting on the CRD Board prior to the completion of a treaty process.

Despite the lengthy process, the CRD report says that there are other opportunities for local engagement within the Capital Regional District.

"There are options for the CRD to move towards greater inclusivity in discussions at the CRD Committee and Commission tables," reads the report.

CRD staff are now bringing forward a new report that proposes amendments to the CRD Board Remuneration Policy as well and the creation of a first-ever First Nations Remuneration Policy.

The two policies would establish a corporate approach to providing First Nations elected representatives with remuneration for participation on regional committees and commissions and establish guidelines relating to the way the CRD compensates First Nations for supporting the CRD with meeting openings and cultural work.

Currently, there is no timeline as to when these new bylaws would launch. CRD staff still needs to draft the necessary bylaw amendments before it goes to a vote by the First Nations Relations Committee.