Oak Bay will soon have a voice in the negotiations of First Nations land claims.
The District is the latest municipality to join the Te’mexw Treaty Advisory Committee, giving the group 12 members in total.
The committee has contracted a consultant to sit at the negotiating table on their behalf at discussions between the federal and provincial governments and three South Island First Nations communities, represented collectively as the Te’mexw Treaty Association.
Municipal representatives had been reluctant to get involved up to this point, largely due to the fact that there is currently no claim on traditional First Nations lands in Oak Bay.
But given the complicated treaty negotiation process, they’ve recently reconsidered.
“There may be issues related to the treaty lands,” said municipal administrator Mark Brennan.
“They could be located anywhere, they could be in Oak Bay, we don’t know. It’s unlikely, but it’s possible.” He added that the municipality decided to join the committee to ensure that Oak Bay’s interests are represented in the event of a land claim.
A number of First Nations artifacts have been unearthed at various locations throughout Oak Bay in recent years, but that’s unlikely to be a factor in the treaty discussions, Brennan said.
“I think they will probably be looking more at land that’s of economic value.”
Oak Bay’s addition to the treaty committee leaves Central Saanich as the only Capital Regional District municipality not involved in the negotiations.
The committee does not have a vote on any treaty matters. But it is permitted to participate in the negotiations so that any impact land claims might have on the region’s municipalities would be taken into consideration.
To that end, the group drew up an interest paper in 2006, which was re-written in June 2010. However, since the CRD recently joined the committee, it is being re-written a third time to take regional interests into account.
“Nine local governments have land within their jurisdiction,” said the group’s consultant, Dave Drummond.
“What First Nations will have as a result of the treaty is the opportunity to purchase lands, generally in their area of interest. The T-sou’ke band wouldn’t be purchasing land in Victoria, for example.
“Hopefully, we can get to a treaty that works for everybody.”
Calls to the treaty association for comment were not returned by the News’ deadline.
Drummond acknowledged treaty negotiations are a complicated process, and that it could be anywhere from three to five years before claims start being made.
The newest version of the interest paper will likely be made public in October.
• James Douglas, chief factor of the Hudson’s Bay Company at Fort Victoria and governor of Vancouver Island, negotiated 14 treaties with Island First Nations, beginning in 1850.
• For information on the Te’mexw Treaty Association, visit www.temexw.org.
• For details on the treaty negotiation process, visit www.gov.bc.ca/arr/firstnation/temexw. That page includes a link to a historical account of the Douglas treaties.