B.C. and 5 Vancouver Island First Nations sign pre-treaty land deals

VICTORIA - A parking lot near the British Columbia legislature in Victoria and the current site of a government liquor store in nearby Esquimalt are two of several Vancouver Island properties slated to be transferred to five First Nations in advance of treaty settlements.

The land agreements are all on southern Vancouver Island, as are the five First Nations involved.

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Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation Minister Ida Chong said during a signing ceremony on Tuesday at the legislature that the pre-treaty deals are part of the government's ongoing work that offers partial settlements during the treaty negotiation process.

Prior to the five Vancouver Island agreements, the government reached five other incremental deals with First Nations across B.C.

The five Vancouver Island First Nations are negotiating a land-claims treaty with the B.C. and federal governments as members of the Te'mexw Treaty Association.

"The agreements we are celebrating today with the nations of the Te'mexw Treaty Association will bring tangible benefits to your members within the treaty process," said Chong. "They will bring new opportunities that will benefit not only the five Te'mexw Treaty Association members, but neighbouring communities across Vancouver Island."

The First Nations signing incremental agreements include, Victoria's Songhees First Nation , the Snaw-naw-as Nation north of Nanaimo, the Malahat Nation near Shawnigan Lake and the Sooke area First Nations, the Scia'new Nation (formerly Beecher Bay) and T'Sou-ke First Nation.

Snaw-naw-as Chief David Bob said he was humbled and proud to be signing a deal that helps provide economic stability for his people.

"It's been a long, hard road that we've gone down," he said. "The signing of these documents will help us to start getting development happening in our communities, which we've been seeking for a long time."

Chong said the Snaw-naw-as will receive two pieces of property, about 6.4 hectares in size, located within the Nanaimo Regional District.

The Scia'new Nation will receive a 67-hectare piece of land while the T-Sou-ke Nation gets one of two 60-hectare land parcels after signing the agreement. The second land parcel goes to T-Sou-ke when the treaty reaches the agreement-in-principle stage.

Last November, the Tofino-area Tla-o-qui-aht First Nations signed an incremental treaty agreement with the B.C. government that included cash to help with a clean-energy power project and 12 hectares of land near a hotel and resort facility run by the First Nation.

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