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St'at'imc Nation reorganizing into new governance model

Government to assist member bands whenever it is needed



The St'at'imc Nation is reorganizing itself under a new governing umbrella that will exist to help member bands whenever they need it.

St'at'imc Government House is the umbrella name that will be given to a new government that will include a secretariat, services department and holding company. And rather than having governing authority over the 11 communities that comprise the St'at'imc, proponents say it will exist to serve the bands whenever they approach it for support.

"We don't expect to have people, when they see the name government, think that it's some large bureaucracy," said Mike Leach, chair of the current St'at'imc Chiefs Council that will also be rolled into the new governing body. "At least 95 per cent of the resources from any projects would flow to the communities and maybe five per cent, I'm just using as a make believe figure, may go to the St'at'imc Government House to assist them in projects they may be taking on."

The St'at'imc Nation comprises 11 member bands including Mount Currie, N'quatqua and Samahquam. Each has a representative on the St'at'imc Chiefs Council, which works on a political level to address issues that unify all the communities.

The St'at'imc evolved as a nation after coming together through a declaration in 1911. Earlier this year it signed an agreement with BC Hydro that would see the power authority pay the communities an estimated $210 million as part of a legal settlement for community impacts associated with the construction of electrical infrastructure in their traditional territory.

The agreement will see the money administered in a trust fund, allowing it to accrue interest the longer it stays there. Each of the communities also gets a $1 million signing bonus for ratifying the agreement in July.

Beyond helping the communities when asked, the Government House will also administer the dispersal of funds flowing from the hydro settlement. That money can go to anything from economic development such as energy projects to cultural projects like education centres.

The St'at'imc Holding Company is a key part of the new government. It will take on economic issues such as a pellet mill that a Korean company is planning for one of the St'at'imc communities.

"There could be things under various issues where the communities feel they should go at something jointly," Leach said. "It's not effective sometimes to take a project on by a singular community so it's much more equitable to do it collectively."

Leach went on to say that St'at'imc Government House would not override any of the government-to-government work being done by the individual communities. If Mount Currie Band had to negotiate with the provincial government around money for housing, for example, the Government House would play no part in it unless asked.

"The St'at'imc Government House is community built, so it's the communities that agree as to what the Government House can and cannot take on," Leach said.