Northwest B.C. First Nations waiting for land transfers

The transfers to Kitselas and Kitsumkalum were promised one year ago

The federal government isn’t the only government lagging behind when it comes to efforts to conclude two local land claims treaties.

While the provincial government has ratified agreements in principle for the Kitselas and Kitsumkalum first nations, it has yet to turn over parcels of lands to both communities.

Those parcels, which are outside any lands agreed to in agreements in principle, were regarded as inducements for both communities to ratify the agreements in principle in the first place.

And if Kitselas and Kitsumkalum did not vote in favour of those agreements, they wouldn’t receive the additional lands.

With the first anniversary of the Kitselas approval in principle being Feb. 20 and the Kitsumkalum firsts anniversary coming in April, the chief treaty negotiator for both communities doesn’t understand why the province hasn’t followed through with its commitment.

“We’re still waiting for the title. It’s a bit frustrating,” says the chief treaty negotiator Gerald Wesley.

He said transferring the promised land, which was clearly identified in documents signed by then-aboriginal relations and reconciliation minister Ida Chong during a visit here in January 2013, should not be more complicated that any other real estate transaction.

“We did ask and were told they had to go through a consultation process, but that’s all we know,” said Wesley.

Chong, during her visit here, described the transfer of title to the lands as a way for the Kitsumkalum and Kitselas to immediately benefit from ownership.

“These are part of our continuing commitment to involve First Nations in the economy,” said Chong of the parcels.

All of the lands involved are Crown lands taking up approximately 148 hectares in two parcels for the Kitsumkalum and 250 hectares in three parcels for the Kitselas.

The larger of the Kitsumkalum parcels is to become part of the community’s rock quarry opened last year while the other, farther north along the West Kalum Forestry Road, is to be used for a subdivision.

The largest of the Kitselas parcels is to allow the First Nation’s Gitaus subdivision to expand and is located on both sides of Hwy16, while another, near the airport, is to be rolled into its agreement with the City of Terrace for the development of an industrial park.

A small parcel of land at Catt Point on Lakelse Lake across from Lakelse Lake Provincial Park is included in the Kitselas deal.

A statement from the provincial government said the length of time it’s taking to transfer the lands isn’t considered out of the ordinary.

“We anticipate incremental treaty agreement lands to be transferred within the next two to three months,” the statement continued.