Two weeks after finalizing a land transfer deal with the province, Squamish Nation has no definite plans for 600 acres of downtown Squamish property.
“I don’t think they want a nuclear power plant there,” quipped Chief Gibby Jacob. “There’s nothing imminent right now. Residential more than likely for some of it, I would assume. The majority of it’s an area that is residential already.”
The land comes as a result of an agreement between the B.C. Ministry of Transportation and Squamish Nation. Finalized two weeks ago, the deal lets the government widen portions of Highway 99 through areas traditionally claimed by Squamish Nation.
In return, the nation negotiated 600 acres of Crown land in and around downtown Squamish. The deal is pinned on the 2004 appraised value of $7.2 million. An additional 600 acres of Crown land, these parcels in the north end of Squamish, are also available for purchase at the 2004 appraised value of $4.6 million. The nation has 10 years to make the purchase. Further, the government handed over $9.75 million for land acquisition and to mitigate impacts of highway construction. Those funds, said Jacob, have largely been spent.
“Certainly, our programs and services are always in need of money. So that’s where the majority of it has gone.”
In addition to land parcels, Squamish Nation also negotiated $1.25 million for economic development. The money has gone into trades development. Over the past three years, Squamish Nation has trained 600 carpenters. Heavy equipment operators have also been trained in numbers. According to Jacob, members who started out as labourers in Kiewit’s employ have since moved into supervisory roles.
“That’s our mantra,” he said. “Get our people self sufficient and working. Like the old saying goes, you can give a man a fish to feed his family for a day or you could teach him how to fish. We prefer to teach our people how to fish.”