Carrier Sekani First Nations reach $175 million deal with provincial government

Citizen Photo by James Doyle. Chief Archie Patrick, Stellat’en First Nation, speaks at Uda Dune Baiyoh on Wednesday afternoon during an event to celebrate the Carrier Sekani Tribal Council and Government of British Columbia’s new reconciliation agreement | James Doyle

Seven Carrier Sekani First Nations will share in $175 million under a five-year agreement signed Wednesday with the provincial government.

Dubbed Pathways Forward 2.0, it was described as an "historic partnership" that "promises to boost the economy in the entire Omineca region while increasing self-determination for the signatory First Nations."

Measures in the agreement include:

- an economic development fund worth $70 million over five years to support business development, partnerships with neighbouring communities and joint ventures;

- $40 million over five years to accommodate for impacts on the land from forest and range activities in the territory;

- $25 million over five years to build "capacity" to implement the agreement and continue negotiations on a long-term, comprehensive reconciliation agreement between CSFNs and the provincial and federal governments;

- $12.5 million over five years for programs to revitalize Carrier and Sekani languages and culture;

- $12.5 million over five years to build on governance processes and structures, with a goal of full self-government.

The First Nations will also receive $15 million in 2020-21 for a wealth fund.

With Premier John Horgan in attendance, the agreement was signed at a packed Uda Dune Baiyoh (House of Ancestors) Conference Centre in Prince George.

It follows on an interim agreement, signed in April 2017, meant to increase its members First Nations' participation in the forest economy. The latest version also commits to bringing the federal government to the negotiations going forward. Priorities for continued negotiation of a long-term agreement include lands, forest tenure opportunities and implementation of rights and title.

"All we really want for our communities is to thrive, and when our communities thrive our neighbours thrive, British Columbians and Canadians," Carrier Sekani Tribal Council Tribal Chief Mina Holmes said.

"This agreement helps bring our communities and members back into equitable balance, to help close the social and economic gaps between us and our neighbours."

Signatories include the Stellat'en First Nation, Nadleh Whut'en, Ts'il Kaz Koh First Nation, Saik'uz First Nation, Nak'azdli Whut'en, Takla Nation and Tl'azt'en Natio.

Their combined population is over 8,400 people and their combined territories span about 69,600 square kilometres - which is almost the size of New Brunswick, or 7.4 per cent of B.C.

Prince George Citizen