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Cowichan Tribes renews calls for its companies to work on hospital

An earlier application from the Khowutzun Development Corporation to work on the development was rejected.
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A replacement for the Cowichan District Hospital is being built. VIA ISLAND HEALTH

Cowichan Tribes and Khowutzun Development Corporation are renewing calls for companies owned by their members to be permitted to work on the $1.45-billion Cowichan District Hospital construction project.

An earlier permit application from the development corporation to work on the development was rejected.

A new proposal has been submitted and is being reviewed, Jodee Dick, chief executive of the development corporation, which is owned by Cowichan Tribes, said Thursday.

“We hope to receive approval in the near future, as the scope of work that can be performed by our citizen-owned companies continues to dwindle each week.”

Jon Coleman, owner of Jon-co Contracting, a member of the development corporation, protested in December when his work was cut off.

His firm had been preparing land for the new hospital, but he said the Crown corporation B.C. Infrastructure Benefits would not give the Khowutzun agency a permit to continue work.

Coleman said he was told it was because Jon-co was not a union company.

Cowichan Chief Chief Lydia Hwitsum and Dick said they met this week with B.C. Infrastructure Benefits as well as the Allied Infrastructure and Related Construction Council to discuss ways for the Khowutzun agency and Cowichan Tribes companies to work on the project.

A spokesperson for B.C. Infrastructure Benefits could not be reached Thursday.

Cowichan Tribes and the Khowutzun corporation have been attempting to line up work opportunities for member companies on the hospital development, which is being built on Cowichan land, they said.

“Cowichan Tribes was excluded from the negotiations of the community benefits agreement that governs this project,” they said in a statement.

There was no pathway for Cowichan Tribes to negotiate an interim benefit agreement that would have set out work for Cowichan-owned companies, it said.

“It is unacceptable that the traditional peoples of this land should be excluded and deliberately prevented from playing a role in the building of vital community infrastructure,” Hwitsum said.

“This amounts to a rejection of our Rights and Title within our territory. It is hard to believe in today’s environment of Truth and Reconciliation that we would find ourselves in this situation.”

cjwilson@timescolonist.com

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