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Parks Canada signs agreement to return land to Vancouver Island First Nation

Clouds move among the forest near Port Renfrew, B.C. Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2021. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward) Clouds move among the forest near Port Renfrew, B.C. Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2021. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
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The Pacheedaht First Nation on Vancouver Island’s west coast is celebrating an historic day as part of its waterfront territory is returned in a new agreement with Parks Canada.

In 1988, Middle Beach was absorbed into the Pacific Rim National Park around Port Renfrew. It was taken without any formal consultation or recognition from the Pacheedaht – and that’s about to change.

“It’s a very exciting time and I think a lot of our people today will really benefit hugely in the future,” says Pacheedaht Chief Jeff Jones.

The area is 2.64 hectares of beach and forest between Pacheena 1 and Gordon River 2, close to the West Coast Trail.

Jones says Middle Beach is called ?A:?b?e:?s (Aah-bee-ay-s) in the Ditidaht dialect.

A joint release between the Nation and Parks Canada says the agreement returns the beach to the Pacheedaht in advance of its treaty settlement.

“I’m pretty sure our elders would’ve loved that land as part of the reserves and for some reason it didn’t make it that far,” says Jones.

The community is hosting a formal event with federal officials to mark the agreement, which is rooted in reconciliation and Indigenous rights.

“Pacheedaht First Nation has been very patient with the government of Canada," says Dave Tovell, an acting field unit superintendent with Parks Canada.

"They’ve been undergoing treaty discussions for decades and this is an interim step to return some of the land that will become treaty settlement land when treaty is signed."

Pacheedaht’s chief councillor says it could take another two years to sign the treaty.

Jones says the interim agreement paves the way for new economic opportunity, including the potential to expand a campground.

“It’s going to be an exciting time down the road trying to figure out what is best for Pacheedaht people on our beach,” says Jones.

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