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Treaty negotiations could see transfer of two B.C. parks to Vancouver Island First Nations

One of the proposed B.C. park areas is shown. (CTV News/Google Earth) One of the proposed B.C. park areas is shown. (CTV News/Google Earth)
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A pair of provincial parks are being considered in the B.C. government's treaty negotiations with the T’Sou-ke and Songhees nations on Vancouver Island.

The T’Sou-ke First Nation could see the return of Sooke Mountain Provincial Park as part of their traditional lands while the Songhees First Nation could once again manage the lands making up Discovery Island Marine Park, which sits off Oak Bay, B.C.

"We need our space," said Chief Gordon Planes of the T'Sou-ke Nation on Wednesday.

"How can we be T’Sou-ke without that space to practise who we are as T’Sou-ke people?" he said. "Our territory is who we are."

In a release, Songhees Nation chief Ron Sam said Discovery Island is one of the last areas of the nation's original territory that has remained untouched over the past 200 years.

"Many of our nation's generations have lived on this sacred island, and its rich surroundings reflect our peoples' relationship to the land and water," he said.

As part of the deal, the nations have agreed to maintain public access and continue recreational use in the parks.

"Before contact, our people co-existed with Mother Nature by following the footsteps of our ancestors in enhancing our territory, this insured a good life for our future generations," said Planes.

"From the first contact, we all took too much too fast, and now is the time to reverse that," he said. "Let's work together to enhance our watersheds and food forest. We owe it to our children and our children who are not born yet, they are our most valued currency."

B.C. Environment Minister George Heyman said the two provincial parks in question hold cultural significance to the T'Sou-ke and Songhees First Nations.

"These treaty negotiations recognize the cultural and social significance of these lands to Te'mexw Member Nations, and set us on a clear path to reconciliation while also continuing to uphold the ecological and conservation values of these special places, as well as continued recreational access for the general public," he said.

TREATY NEGOTIATIONS

The T’Sou-ke, Songhees, Malahat, Beecher (SC'IA⁄NEW)and Snaw-Naw-As nations are all part of the Te’mexw Treaty Association (TTA), which began negotiations with the provincial and federal governments in 1995.

The five First Nations of the TTA are negotiating together, but the negotiations will result in five separate treaties.

"These treaties are intended to recognize the pre-existing rights and title of the five Te'mexw Member Nations and provide the basis for a revitalized relationship between Canada, B.C. and these First Nations," said Murray Rankin, B.C. Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, in a statement.

"Treaties help everyone in B.C. by providing better clarity for First Nations and surrounding communities and will result in better social and economic opportunities for all communities in southern Vancouver Island," he said.

The completion of the treaties are expected in the next few years.

The public is invited to a series of open houses that will take place from late February until April to learn more about the proposed treaties with the TTA nations.

The open house dates can be found below:

  • Saturday, Feb. 25, 11 a.m. until 2 p.m., Songhees Wellness Centre, 1100 Admirals Rd., Victoria
  • Thursday, March 2, 4:30-7 p.m., Edward Milne Community school, 6218 Sooke Rd., Sooke
  • Saturday, March 4, 11 a.m. until 3 p.m., Quarterdeck, Royal Roads University, 2005 Sooke Rd., Colwood
  • Monday, March 6, 4:30-7 p.m., Nanoose Bay Community Centre, 2925 NW Bay Rd., Nanoose Bay
  • Tuesday, March 7, 4:30-7 p.m., George Jay Elementary, 1118 Princess Ave., Victoria
  • Saturday, March 11, 11 a.m. until 2 p.m., Shawnigan Lake Community Hall, 2804 Shawnigan Lake Rd., Shawnigan Lake
  • Wednesday, March 15, 4:30-7 p.m., Metchosin Community Hall, 4401 William Head Rd., Victoria

Virtual Open Houses (pre-registration required)

  • Wednesday, April 5, 2:30-4 p.m.
  • Thursday, April 13, 6-7:30 p.m.

More information on the treaty process can be found on the Province of B.C. website.

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