Tripartite memorandum of understanding paves way for future agreements

From: Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada

Today, Snuneymuxw First Nation, British Columbia and Canada celebrated continued progress in their relationship with a new tripartite memorandum of understanding.

Snuneymuxw First Nation Chief Mike Wyse, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation Murray Rankin, and federal Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations Carolyn Bennett signed the new memorandum of understanding (MOU) during a virtual meeting to advance meaningful reconciliation.

This MOU brings all parties together and builds on the existing but independent relationships Canada and British Columbia have with the Snuneymuxw First Nation.

Snuneymuxw and Canada signed a letter of understanding in August 2019 that established a framework for advancing reconciliation and the recognition of Snuneymuxw’s rights. The parties continue to work toward the transfer of the former Camp Nanaimo property.

Snuneymuxw and British Columbia signed two framework agreements in September 2020, creating a shared vision for advancing reconciliation and transferring a package of Crown land to Snuneymuxw. Both 2020 agreements build on a 2013 reconciliation agreement. All three B.C.-Snuneymuxw agreements recognized the role Canada plays in furthering future negotiations and ongoing collaborative discussions.

The new tripartite MOU is an important next step that formalizes a new negotiations table between the federal, provincial and Snuneymuxw governments and sets out priority items for resolution, such as the implementation of the 1854 Treaty and near-term land reconciliation.

The current MOU demonstrates the commitment of both levels of government to implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and its role as the framework for implementing Indigenous rights. This demonstrates a shift toward stronger processes based on recognition of rights, respect and mutual support.

This agreement comes at a time when many nations are dealing with myriad issues, including the ongoing impact of the residential school system and the social and cultural impacts related to development. For many, these painful legacies place a great burden on the community, and agreements such as this can create an opportunity to address the historical impacts of colonialism through return of traditional lands and a strengthening of Indigenous-led stewardship and the protection of traditional territories and marine areas.

Quotes

“Getting to this day has been a long journey for our chiefs and leaders, many of whom are no longer with us to witness this day. I acknowledge them and our Council pays respect to our Elders and all of our ancestors for what they endured, their strength and wisdom to protect our language, culture and sacred ways of life. Snuneymuxw people have survived difficult times, and we are focusing on recovering our traditional territories and marine areas and protecting them for the future.

Snuneymuxw is encouraged by the conclusion of this agreement with Canada and British Columbia. It is historic and path-breaking in that it provides acknowledgment and a way forward to address historical issues pertaining to our traditional territories and impacts to our rights and practices. We now feel governments will be paddling the same path with us to uphold the Treaty and ensure it is implemented as intended.”

Chief Mike Wyse, Snuneymuxw First Nation

“Supporting Indigenous nations in fulfilling their vision of self-determination is critical to advancing reconciliation and transforming relationships. Congratulations and thank you to Chief Mike Wyse and the Snuneymuxw First Nation on your dedication, leadership and determination. By signing this memorandum of understanding today, we are reaching a significant milestone that advances our nation-to-nation relationship. We will continue to work in partnership with Indigenous communities in British Columbia to move forward on their priorities and accelerate their path to self-determination.”

The Honourable Carolyn Bennett, M.D., P.C., M.P.

Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations

“This memorandum of understanding is a strong example of how Snuneymuxw, Canada and the province are working collaboratively to support reconciliation and resolve long-standing challenging issues. I’m excited for the agreements that will come as we follow this path together.”

Honourable Murray Rankin

B.C. Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation

“Snuneymuxw First Nation continues to advance relationships in our region based on mutual respect, which I’ve been honoured to witness. Today’s memorandum of understanding will guide negotiations between British Columbia, Snuneymuxw and Canada going forward. This is another important step for everyone who lives on these lands.”

MLA Sheila Malcolmson, British Columbia

Quick facts

  • The Snuneymuxw First Nation is a large Coast Salish, Hul’q’umi’num-speaking Nation with traditional territory and marine areas in the mid-Vancouver Island, Nanaimo estuary, Gulf Islands and lower Fraser areas of British Columbia.

  • Snuneymuxw First Nation leaders entered into a Treaty with Sir James Douglas in 1854, which the Supreme Court of Canada has recognized as a valid and binding Treaty between the Nation and the Crown.

  • Snuneymuxw has over 1,700 members and six reserves covering 266 hectares, and their land base is a small fraction of their traditional territories and marine areas. The nation is pursuing a series of specific land claims, which have been accepted for negotiation or require resolution to advance meaningful reconciliation.

  • Snuneymuxw traditional territory was taken for use as an Indian hospital, and the members of the Nation continue to be impacted by residential schools and other colonial policies.

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