The Kitselas and Kitsumkalum First Nations are to receive additional lands that stand to become part of their treaty allocations under two deals signed Jan. 31.
But members of each First Nation must first approve treaty agreements in principle with Kitselas voting Feb. 20 and Kitsumkalum April 10 before any transfers take place.
The agreements in principle, initialed by negotiators Jan. 22, form the core of any eventual treaty but the additional lands are meant as an immediate economic and cultural benefit, said provincial aboriginal relations minister Ida Chong who attended the Kitselas and Kitsumkalum signing ceremonies.
“These are part of our continuing commitment to involve First Nations in the economy,” said Chong.
The province has already approved of both agreements in principle.
All of the lands involved in the two deals are Crown land 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.
Gerald Wesley, the chief negotiator for the Kitselas and Kitsumkalum, said that while the deals were separate from the agreements in principle, they formed part of the overall emphasis on building an economy for both First Nations.
“This was a business opportunity so we jumped on it,” he said.
The parcels being allocated come under the provincial government’s incremental treaty agreement policy of providing land for economic and other development in advance of any final treaties.
“I do believe they build trust between governments and communities,” said Chong.
Kitsumkalum chief councillor Don Roberts with minister Ida Chong at the Kitsumkalum signing.
As it is, the Kitsumkalum, based on its proposed agreement in principle, is to receive approximately 44,809 hectares and $44.2 million in cash while the Kitselas are to receive 35,090 hectares and approximately $34.7 million in cash.
Agreements in principle even after being approved, however, are not legally binding and details could change as negotiations continue toward a final treaty document.
Kitsumkalum chief councillor Don Roberts called the pending land transfer a “significant milestone in the treaty process.”
But he cautioned the audience at the Kitsumkalum ceremony that accepting the additional lands shouldn’t be regarded as blanket agreement of a treaty.
“I know there’s concern in the community,” said Roberts of lands and title issues raised during negotiations.
Kitselas chief councillor Judy Gerow, at the Kitselas signing ceremony, said a treaty provides a framework for dealing with industrial and other development, particularly now that the region is the subject of a growing number of potential liquefied natural gas plants, pipelines and mines.
“Now when we look at what’s going on, it’s scary,” said Gerow. “A treaty ensures we have a say on what happens.”
“Now we will be able to participate in decisions being made on our land.”
Both signing ceremonies were attended by City of Terrace and Kitimat-Stikine regional district officials.
There was one note of protest at Kitsumkalum – two Idle No More banners were planted on the side of Hwy16 close to the front door of the Kitsumkalum community hall. Five police officers were also in attendance at the Kitsumkalum ceremony but none were present at the Kitselas signing.
(Note: The paragraph below originally appeared on line stating there were four parcels for the Kitselas First Nation. In fact, there are three. The number has since been corrected.
All of the lands involved in the two deals are Crown land taking up approximately 148 hectares in two parcels for the Kitsumkalum and 250 hectares in three parcels for the Kitselas.)