The Sts’ailes First Nation and the government of British Columbia have reached a new reconciliation agreement, the province announced on Friday, March 11.
In addition to transferring 167 hectares of Crown land along the Chehalis River back to the Sts’ailes people, the province will provide $4.35 million over the course of five years to support Sts’ailes in self-governance and a number of projects. These projects include exploring new tourism and recreation opportunities, building a Sts’ailes Guardian environmental program and developing social programs such as restorative justice.
“Sts’ailes and the province have a long history of partnership and I congratulate the entire Sts’ailes community for taking this next step in our journey together,” said Murray Rankin, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation. “This new agreement strengthens our relationship, supports Sts’ailes’ goals and vision for their territory and strengthens their participation in the regional economy.”
The government will also provide $2.5 million to the Sts’ailes people to purchase land for a Sts’ailes led primary health care centre.
“Our government is committed to reconciliation, and part of that is ensuring access to culturally safe care,” said Adrian Dix, Minister of Health. “We are pleased to be building on this agreement between the Sts’ailes and British Columbia with additional funding to support health-care services that advance cultural values and a traditional wellness approach to health.”
Sts’ailes Chief Ralph Leon said this important agreement is another step in the journey to rebuild the Sts’ailes nation and a stronger relationship with neighbouring governments.
“Today, we celebrate this important achievement and set our intentions for future generations,” Chief Leon said in a statement. “We would like to acknowledge the work that took place to reach this point in our shared history. We have a long way to go, and we look forward to continued progress.”
This agreement builds on previous agreements signed in 2011 (a memorandum of understanding) and 2018 (letter of commitment); Sts’ailes and the province negotiated this significant agreement without needing to involve courts.
Chilliwack-Kent MLA Kelli Paddon reiterated the provincial NDP’s commitment to reconciliation in the province.
“I know first-hand the good work that the Province and Sts’ailes have accomplished together in the past and I’m excited for the future as we implement this new agreement,” Paddon said.
Sts’ailes territory is approximately 100 kilometres east of Vancouver and includes the Chehalis River watershed as well as Harrison Lake.