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Forestry, tourism and clean energy part of B.C. deal with Island First Nations

Nov 30 2011

An innovative agreement between the province and five northern Vancouver Island First Nations will help First Nations develop their economy through forestry, tourism and clean energy.

"It will create more and more economic growth and more jobs," said Dallas Smith, Nanwakolas Council Society president.

First Nations will be given access to 52,993 cubic metres of timber a year in replaceable licences and 39,457 cubic metres a year in non-replaceable licences.

"And we are in the process of developing a comprehensive regional tourism strategy where we will work with each other rather than against each other," Smith said.

The key has been to put aside arguments between First Nations about overlapping claims, which dog many treaty talks, and instead concentrate on all bands working together to manage an area to its best potential, Smith said.

In addition to run-of-river power projects, Nanwakolas First Nations, whose traditional territory stretches from Parksville to Cape Caution and across to Knight Inlet, are also exploring wind and tide power, Smith said.

Full treaties remain out of reach for most B.C. First Nations, but the province is banking on partnership agreements to pave the way for reconciliation and treaties.

Aboriginal Relations Minister Mary Polak said such agreements can increase investor confidence and unleash major economic benefits in First Nations communities.

"In the B.C. Jobs Plan, we committed to 10 new non-treaty agreements by 2015," Polak said.

"These are the type of agreements we need more of — ones that build strong, workable partnerships with First Nations."

Similar protocols were signed in 2009 with the Council of the Haida Nation and six coastal First Nations.

Bands taking part in the new agreements are Tlowitsis, Mamalilikulla-Qwe'Qwa'Sot'Em, Da'naxda'xw Awaetlala, Gwa'sala-'Nakwaxda'xw and K'omoks.

jlavoie@timescolonist.com