by Monica Lamb-Yorski - Williams Lake Tribune
Five Tsilhqot’in communities have signed a renewed three-year agreement with the provincial government, formalizing a single window for referrals on natural resources within their traditional territories.
Last Tuesday leaders from Alexis Creek Indian Band, Tl’etinqox-t’in Government Office, Xeni Gwet’in First Nations Government, ?Esdilagh First Nations and the Toosey Indian Band, along with Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation John Rustad signed the Tsilhqot’in Stewardship Agreement (TSA) in Williams Lake.
“The agreement will enhance government-to-government engagement on land and resource management and provide greater investor certainty in the Cariboo-Chilcotin,” Anaham Chief Joe Alphonse said. “This is a renewal of a contract that had been previously negotiated four years ago.”
Rustad echoed Alphonse saying the work achieved through the TSA demonstrates the potential for positive partnerships between government, industry and First Nations.
“Creating a more effective and efficient consultation process for resource management is an essential part of making B.C. an attractive destination for investors,” Rustad said.
Xeni Gwet’in Chief Roger William described the agreement as part of getting his people involved in land management.
“This is still a young agreement with a lot of work to be done, but I believe it is a process that benefits the Tsilhqot’in, as well as Cariboo-Chilcotin,” William said, adding TSA means “beaver” which in a way symbolized the working aspect of the agreement.
Under the TSA, the province will provide $670,000 per year to help the Tsilhqot’in Nation continue the work of the original agreement, including agreement implementation, negotiation capacity and the support for an improved wildlife committee that will allow increased community involvement in addressing the moose decline in the agreement area.
To date the provincial government has reached 31 non-treaty agreements with First Nations since 2011, to support economic opportunities for both First Nations and neighbouring communities, acting as a step towards shared-decision making with First Nations.