'Really good discussions:' SFN eyes key Nanaimo property during talks with feds

By Ian Holmes
August 29, 2018 - 6:15pm Updated: August 30, 2018 - 7:42am

SFN chief negotiator Douglas White III is confident an "understanding" with the federal government will be reached this year for the 250-acre DND property near VIU.Ian Holmes/NanaimoNewsNOW

View from the DND property near VIU. Snuneymuxw First Nation is currently negotiating the transfer of the strategic 250-acre federally owned site.Ian Holmes/NanaimoNewsNOW

NANAIMO — The chief negotiator of Snuneymuxw First Nation is confident an agreement is nearing for the band to assume 250-acres in south Nanaimo from the federal government.

Douglas White III Kwul'a'sul'tun said productive discussions with federal crown-Indigenous relations minister Carolyn Bennett occurred during a recent meeting and tour of the Department of National Defence property, adjacent to the VIU campus.

White, an SFN councillor, said the strategically located property would help land-starved SFN gain badly needed room to help serve their large population in a number of ways.

“Primarily economic development and housing I would expect, but we haven't really done a very specific analysis or planning in that regard.”

White said beyond housing, the property, known as the DND lands, could lead to partnerships with neighbouring VIU, which he said SFN has a strong relationship with. White said the DND site is important to the City of Nanaimo, which he said has long supported transferring the property to SFN.

“It would be expected it will be an important economic driver for the region as we work with the appropriate development of that land."

White said he's confident an understanding with the federal government will be reached this year in relation to the DND lands, as well as 1,000 acres on Gabriola Island and about 100 acres in the Duke Point area.

White said all three federally controlled properties were identified in a side agreement in recognition of 79-acres of prime downtown Nanaimo property illegally taken from SFN.

He said while potentially to be SFN destined land, the “basic working idea” would be for the properties to fall under local government jurisdiction (fee simple designation), rather than Indian reserve status.

White said roughly two-thirds of SFN's nearly 2,000 members live off-reserve, in part due to a lack of land. He said SFN's current land stock comprises of about 650 acres on four reserves, which includes flood-prone land in Cedar.

Minister Bennett said land transfers are included in new accelerated self-determination deals being forged between the federal government and First Nations across the country.

Bennett said she is well aware and supportive of SFN's desires to increase its land base.

“I think the SFN interest in what is part of National Defence is really an interesting opportunity,” Bennett told NanaimoNewsNOW during the Liberal party's recent cabinet retreat in Nanaimo.

“We really are listening and I believe trying to put in place the flexibility to allow people to move at their own pace toward self-determination on the areas that really matter to them," Bennett said.

 

[email protected]

On Twitter: @reporterholmes

 

Successful downtown Nanaimo night market wrapping up for summer