A new protocol agreement between the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) and local First Nations marks another step in relationship building for all involved.
"We believe this establishes a real foundation for building stronger government-to-government relationships," said Chief Administrative Office Mike Furey, in presenting the agreement at the April 24 council meeting.
The agreement builds on a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)—signed between the Lil'wat and Squamish Nations, the RMOW, Whistler Blackcomb and the provincial government in February 2017—that set out a process for exploring key interests between all parties.
"The protocol (agreement) is seen as a tool to continue with the progress made from the MOU in establishing the relationship, and a means for us to have increased engagement and cooperation between the Nations and Whistler," Furey said.
"It's really a unique tripartite relationship focused on respect and understanding of each government's governance structures, traditions, jurisdictions and responsibilities, and our intent is to meet openly and regularly, and have transparent communications, again, building trust and honesty and respect in our engagement with the Lil'wat and Squamish Nations."
A key element of the new agreement is the establishment of a working committee that will be "working through the nuts and bolts" of some of the issues between the three parties, said Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden.
"We will be working on things of mutual interest ... regional transit is a big topic that involves the first nations, (as well as) land use planning and management, and economic development, so there is quite a number of big issues that we will be working on with the First Nations through this protocol agreement," she said.
The agreement was endorsed by the Lil'wat Nation council on Jan. 23, and will be reviewed by the Squamish Nation council at a future meeting.
Requests for comment to both nations were not returned before Pique's deadline.
Whistler council was enthused to support the agreement at the April 24 meeting.
"Congratulations. I think this is a historic agreement for our community," said Councillor Jack Crompton.
"I look forward to many years of deepening relationships with the Squamish and Lil'wat nations."
Meanwhile, the RMOW is still working its way through an update to its Official Community Plan, with another community open house planned for June.
"We just had a workshop ... and we're looking for a date to go back to the community," Wilhelm-Morden said, adding that the new protocol agreement will help guide future OCP discussions.
"I think we are (making progress with the First Nations), and we will be doing something in a formal way to celebrate the entering into of this protocol agreement."