Snuneymuxw Citizens Ratify Largest Specific Claim in BC History
“On behalf of the Snuneymuxw First Nation, I am happy to announce the result of our citizen’s ratification vote on our settlement agreement with Canada for the loss of our 79-acre Indian reserve in downtown Nanaimo which was unlawfully taken by the crown in the 1880s. Today, our people have voted nearly unanimously to accept the terms of the settlement agreement and trust agreement,” said Acting Chief of the Snueymuxw First Nation Douglas White III Kwulasultun.
The settlement amount is $49,148,121.00 – the largest specific claim settlement in BC history by a factor of five. The loss of this major Indian reserve of 79 acres in the middle of the city of Nanaimo has profoundly impacted the Snuneymuxw people and Nation. Today, only 1/3 of our citizens live on-reserve in our community for lack of land and we have been deprived over the past century and longer of the potential economic benefit of these lands. The loss has contributed to the harsh reality that the Snuneymuxw have the smallest Indian reserve land base per capita in the country.
“The settlement cannot change the past, and how that past has structured our present reality. But it does provide Snuneymuxw with a transformative infusion of resources to address the significant needs of our Nation,” added Acting Chief White.
Councillor Doug White II said, “We wish to honour the work of our elders who first raised the issue with our chief and council in the late 1980s. Late Chief Robert Thomas and his council directed that historical and legal research be undertaken in relation to the loss, which was submitted to Specific Claims Canada in 1992.”
Canada accepted the claim for negotiation in 2003, after having undertaken their own research and legal analysis that confirmed the veracity of the claim. Over the past couple of years, Snuneymuxw and Canada reached a settlement and negotiated the final language of the settlement agreement. Snuneymuxw, with the support of a community driven committee, crafted a community trust to receive the settlement amount.
The official results were announced by the Chief Electoral Officer Theresa Marion upon conclusion of the ballot count. The result is as follows:
• 848 total votes were cast out of 1312 eligible voters (64.6% turnout);
• 828 voted “YES” to approve the settlement (98.1%);
• 16 voted “NO” (1.9%); and,
• 4 ballots were spoiled.
Councillor Erralyn Thomas said “We now begin the hard work of the next chapter of making our Nation whole – by executing the settlement agreement and receiving the funds into our trust. We understand that a conservative estimate of the amount of time it will take to receive the funds from Canada is approximately 8 to 12 months. We will be pushing hard to get this important work done as soon as possible. We will be taking immediate steps to establish the trust and get it ready for the hard work it will be doing over generations to provide ongoing benefits to members of our Nation.”
Acting Chief White added, “Tonight, our people have taken a historic step to ratify an agreement that strikes at the core of our relationship with Canada. Real harm was done to our Nation and citizens with the loss of this reserve, known as Thlap’qwam, and this settlement partially addresses that loss. We acknowledge Indigenous and Northern Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett and her staff for their leadership and work in making this day possible.”
What are the next steps for the Community Settlement Trust?
The Trust is now created. It is officially called the “Thlap’qwum Community Settlement Trust”.
It will take 8 - 12 months for the settlement money to flow from Canada to the SFN trust account, which will then begin the process of distribution to members.
Community Trustees are entrusted with distributing the funds to members using this process. Trustees will begin training soon so they can fulfill their role as Trustees of the funds. They will also develop policies that will guide both them and the membership in this process.
Chief and Council will soon draft a “Letter of Wishes” asking the Trust to distribute approximately $10,000 per member from the capital of the Trust. Please note that all SFN minors’ distributions will be held in trust, earning interest, until they turn 19 years old.
Keith Atkinson R.P.F.
Keith is a member of the Snuneymuxw First Nation and currently works as the CEO of the First Nations Forestry Council. He grew up in coastal communities while developing forest management skills from employment in the family business, Coast Forest Management. Keith graduated from the University of British Columbia with a Bachelor of Science in Forestry in 1994. Over twenty years in forest planning and management ranging from timber harvesting layout and design to pine mushroom management plans with the Nisga’a Lisims Government. Keith’s focus at FNFC is to assist and improve First Nations communities in their involvement and benefit from natural resource management.
With over 20 years of experience working for the Nation, Sandra embodies the spirit of giving back to her community. Her strength as a long term visionary has been instrumental in bringing innovative programs and projects to the Health Centre.
Sandra has served three terms on Snuneymuxw Band Council. Her strong community spirit and compassion for aboriginal people has fostered a significant leadership role on aboriginal issues.
In addition to her service on the Snuneymuxw Council, Sandra has years of experience as a member of several Boards and Committees for the City of Nanaimo and has worked for the provincial government with Ministry for Children and Families.
Sandra has earned a Bachelor of Social Work and a Diploma in Business Administration, she is a proud SFN member and has lived on the reserve her entire life. Sandra is married to Peter Good and has two children Chris and Wanda and three grandchildren.
Dave spent the last 8 years as Executive Director at Coast Opportunity Funds and Snuneymuxw First Nation Economic Development Officer for 12 years.
Dave has had extensive forestry and development experience, both on and off reserve, including 18 years as owner/manager of a forestry company, undertaking contracts for First Nations, private landowners and major licensees and 4 years as owner/manager of West Coast Glass Ltd.
He has been involved in many land use processes, policy, regulatory and community/economic development-based initiatives with all levels of governments and NGO’s, both First Nations and non-
Currently Dave is the Director of the Island Coastal Economic Trust, since 2006.
Dave brings many years of active participation in the Nanaimo business community and local government forums and conferences.
Captain Robert D. Nelson, MBA
Robert is a proud Native and member of the SFN and wants to help guide the nation into the future, ensuring strength and prosperity now and for the future.
Robert grew up in Sooke, BC, graduated from Edward Milne community school and spent his spare time playing hockey and attending sea cadets. He has worked up and down the coast for BC Ferries from Haida Gwaii to Swartz Bay. Then he expanded his education and completed a Bachelor’s degree in Maritime Studies and a Master’s Degree in Business Administration.
Robert would like to give back to his Nation by accepting a Trustee position. He is married, with a nine-year-old daughter. Robert’s focus is on making sure that we all benefit from this settlement now and into the future.
Margaret has served on the Snuneymuxw Band Council for one term. She has volunteered for Community Youth Recreation programs, assisted in organizing many sporting events such as soccer, basketball and canoe pulling and chaperoned many youth teams to travel to tournaments. Margaret has approximately 28 years of work history serving the Snuneymuxw in administration, finances and social services. She has participated in many core committees such as Finance, Housing, Treaty, Social Development, Health & Education. She has also worked for Tillicum Haus overseeing their Health programs for four years.
Margaret currently works for the Hul’qumi’num Treaty Group and Hul’q’umi‘num Fisheries Limited Partnership as the Finance Coordinator and Finance Manager. As the Financial Officer Margaret was responsible for reporting finance department activities to Chief and Council, ensure all financial reports were prepared and ready for audit. She always ensured accountability of funding expenses. Margaret received a Certified Aboriginal Financial Manager’s designation in 2002 and Business Management Diploma in 2003. Her career has mostly been in Finance but did do some Management positions throughout my career.
Margaret has two daughters, three sons and nine grandchildren and would like to see a community that has resources to invest in our children, youth and Elders. Margaret is pleased that she was chosen to sit on the Trust Committee and looks forward to working with the other members of the committee.
Administrative Trustee - Toronto Dominion Securities