Map of Wei Wai Kum land back.

Photo Credit: Grace Lore MLA Victoria-Beacon Hill | Facebook

Wei Wai Kum First Nation Are Finally Getting Some Land Back

Treaty negotiations have been underway for 25 years

“This will benefit all residents in our territory” —Chief Chris Roberts

It’s been 25 years coming, and it’s still not over yet.

The Wei Wai Kum First Nation have been in treaty negotiations with the province since 1997.

Now, they’re finally getting a land “advance” while the full treaty negotiations continue. It’s an advance they’re happy about.

As part of this Incremental Treaty Agreement, they’ll get 2,276 hectares of territorial lands back.

“This agreement and transfer of land back to our Nation is a significant milestone. [We] will resume management and utilization in a sustainable manner that balances economic, environmental and recreational values,” said Chief Chris Roberts, Wei Wai Kum First Nation.

The land was carefully picked out. The choice had to benefit the Wei Wai Kum Nation while maintaining public access to recreation sites like Loveland Bay Provincial Park and staying away from areas required for BC Timber Sales operations.

“This agreement supports a strong relationship with Wei Wai Kum in the future, advances Wei Wai Kum’s economic prosperity and returns significant lands to their use and benefit,” said Murray Rankin, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation.

Using the forest for timber is one economic interest that could be gained by the Wei Wai Kum.

The land could be harvested up to 17,054 cubic metres, valued at $1.2 million per year. But it’s still to be seen if they will use the land for wood or walk a different path in benefiting from their lands.

The Wei Wai Kum First Nation is part of the Na̲nwaḵolas Council. Back in January, the Council agreed to defer logging to protect 100% of the ancient and remnant trees in 1,068 hectares identified by the province’s Old Growth Technical Advisory Panel (TAP) within TFL 39-2. But it’s unclear whether this deferred area and the land in the advance overlap.

“This is an important step forward for Wei Wai Kum, reconciliation, and Indigenous economic self-determination,” said Michele Babchuk, MLA for North Island.

The province, federal government and Wei Wai Kum are in the final phases of treaty negotiations.