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District of Squamish opposes new Indian Reserves

Accord with Squamish Nation aims to strike a 'working relationship' without new reserves



The District of Squamish and the Squamish First Nation are together heralding an accord that holds the nation from commitments it made to add reserves through its Community Development Plan.

The District and the First Nation together have announced the "Intergovernmental Cooperation Accord," an agreement to strike a cooperative working relationship that commits the Squamish Nation to a series of measures in exchange for receiving municipal services like sewer and water from the municipality.

District Mayor Greg Gardner said in a news release that, "This Accord brings the two communities closer together by sharing resources and working in harmony toward the common goal of creating a higher quality of life for all Squamish residents."

The Squamish Nation agrees not to add reserve land at a property known as Site B, an area slated for development of a deep-water industrial port. It also agrees not to add reserve land in the Cheekeye Fan area. But if development were to occur in this area a rezoning of up to 200 acres would have to put aside 50 acres for a public park and offer 25 per cent of the profits from any development to the District.

The District of Squamish makes very clear its opposition to any additions to reserve in the accord: "The District does not agree to support any additions to Squamish Nation Reserve Lands."

That's a clause that conflicts heavily with the Squamish Nation's Community Development Plan, a 54-page document that was distributed to Nation members last year and that outlines plans to add 597.4 hectares of reserve land in the Squamish Valley. Those additions include 52 hectares for residential or industrial purposes at Site B.

"In Site B, those lands have been designated in all of our land use planning as industrial/employment lands," Gardner said in an interview. "We wanted to ensure that they remain within our jurisdiction for land use planning.

"With Site B, our whole community, we try and balance our land uses within the community and ensure we have an adequate supply of industrial lands. Site B has been a key component of that planning."

Speaking about the other possible additions to reserve, on properties such as Parcel 3 above Quest University where the Squamish Nation could add 261.9 hectares of reserve land, Gardner said discussions around them have yet to take place.

"That issue and that question will be answered as applications progress," he said. "The determination of whether a land is reserve or not is made by the federal government, they have some guidelines to determine whether land can be added to reserve.

"Some concerns of municipalities are how the land fits into the land use, the municipality's land use planning. Another concern is cost sharing for services, so those are the types of factors that the District of Squamish would consider when determining whether or not it would consider additions to reserves anywhere."

Though the accord doesn't allow for reserve additions, Gardner nevertheless said it holds various benefits for the Squamish Nation. As part of the agreement, the District will support transfers of land to the Squamish Nation and they will likewise work together to acquire economic development lands from BCR Properties and develop a "joint venture partnership."

"Both parties see many opportunities for both of us, by us working in harmony, rather than working at cross purposes on those issues," Gardner said.

Hereditary Chief Ian Campbell, a councillor with the Squamish Nation, said in an interview the Nation has no specific plans for Site B and that it wants to work with the District and current tenants at the site as part of a long-term plan, but there's nothing formalized at this point.

As far as the Cheekeye Fan is concerned, there has been some discussion about future development in that area but that's dependent on working with the District of Squamish and its Official Community Plan. As part of the Accord, the Squamish Nation agrees to have land use decisions follow the District's OCP.

"Any potential developer that would be interested in that area, I think the Nation would be interested in talking to the developer and seeing what options they're offering the nation for partnership or involvement," Campbell said.

As for the Accord itself, he said it "sets a course to create dialogue" between both parties.

"Before there really hasn't been a lot of information sharing on a technical or political level," Campbell said. "I think that will have a return for our future generations to show that we all live here and the Squamish Nation have been very patient and very generous with working through these very difficult issues."



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