Electoral Area C covers over 10,000 square kilometres: from Quadra Island to the headwaters of the Homathko and Southgate Rivers above Bute Inlet; from Refuge Cove in Desolation Sound to Havannah Channel, north of Port Neville. The administrative boundaries of Area C include the traditional territories of the Ligwilda’xw (We Wai Kai, Wei Wai Kum & Kwiakah), Homalco, Klahoose, Tlowitsis, Tla’amin & K’omoks First Nations.

Recently I attended two days of the Indigenous Resource Opportunities Conference in Nanaimo, which was an excellent opportunity for listening and learning. There were discussions on a variety of topics: some of the information may be of interest to Area C residents and is the focus of this report.

Chief Chickite, We Wai Kai Nation
Chief Ronnie Chickite was introduced as a business powerhouse during a ‘fireside chat’. He shared some of the recent successes of the We Wai Kai Nation and spoke about the Nation’s focus on business opportunities and creating jobs.

From coffee to forestry, the We Wai Kai Nation is growing their portfolio and growing employment of their members. The recently opened Starbucks at Quinsam Crossing is well-poised to serve the Nation’s growing commercial/industrial centre. And, in addition to La-kwa sa muqw Forestry (see below), We Wai Kai Nation recently purchased 175,000m3 of forest tenure from Interfor Corp.

We Wai Kai Nation’s Tsa-Kwa-Luten Lodge on Quadra Island operated six months a year, until a couple of years ago when trauma clinics were offered in the off-season. The Nation determined that operating commercial accommodation provided similar economic value to a wellness centre, with the added benefit of supporting First Nations and others with mental health and addiction support, for which there is a huge need. The Lodge is undergoing renovations and a June opening is planned for the healing centre, with a focus on serving those in need on central and north Vancouver Island.

Side note: as We Wai Kai Nation prepares to open the Healing Centre, they have closed the well-loved walking trails on their southend lands. Please let’s respect the Nation’s decision to restrict public trail use.

arbutus tree in bloom

La-kwa sa muqw Forestry Ltd is a recently-completed partnership agreement of the We Wai Kai, Wei Wai Kum, Tlowitsis, and K’omoks First Nations with Western Forest Products. La-kwa sa muqw Forestry owns TFL 46: in combination, the four Nations own 34% of La-kwa sa muqw. It is a fibre supply agreement with an annual allowable cut of 905,800m3, now the second largest tenure on the coast. Tom McCarthy, Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, stated that First Nations partnerships will create a strong and stable forest sector, and that La-kwa sa muqw Forestry is the result of an Incremental Treaty Agreement. (La-kwa sa muqw means ‘the wood of four’).

Also on Forestry, Keith Atkinson, Chair of the Forest Practices Board & Snuneymuxw Nation member, talked about forest management needing to be adaptable, the benefits of landscape level planning, and building resilient forests again. The Forest Practices Board is an independent watchdog not within a provincial ministry: they report to the public on complaints filed but do not have the ability to levy fines.

Iskum Investments is a new consortium of 20 coastal First Nations working together in a business partnership. Iskum’s first initiative is in supporting the evolution of the forest sector to create global value and shared prosperity for today and future generations.

During a panel about Indigenous stewardship & resource leadership, Nanwakolas Council’s Forestry Stewardship Coordinator posited that indigenous science may revolutionize land management and archeologist Christine Roberts of Wei Wai Kum Nation highlighted that archeological work slows things down which is a good thing for finding balance with the environment, animals, and resource extraction.

Watershed restoration and fisheries were discussed. The need for a cohesive voice on fisheries was highlighted, as was the need for a comprehensive salmon recovery plan. Parliamentary Secretary for Watershed Restoration Finn Donnelly stated that watershed restoration as part of a restoration economy will build a resilient future.

There were different perspectives on coastal aquaculture shared, with the overarching theme that clarity, stability & certainty are being sought as the June 30th aquaculture net-pen license renewal deadline approaches. Also highlighted was that the First Nations value of interconnectedness needs to be embedded in economic development, and that collaboration builds strength.

Saskatoon berry blossoms

Seven generations
The Indigenous Resource Opportunities Conference provided lots to learn. A recurring theme shared by many speakers was planning for seven generations and looking more than one hundred years in the future. This is truly a salient message, one we will all do well to incorporate into decisions we face as an island.

Thanks for reading! You’re welcome to connect with me with questions or concerns, you can email rmawhinney@srd.ca, or call 250.203.2468. If you’d like to chat in person, you can book a meeting at calendly.com/robynmawhinney.

Until next time,
Respectfully and sincerely,
Robyn Mawhinney