NANAIMO, B.C. – Members of a First Nation on Vancouver Island have ratified a nearly $50-million settlement with the federal government, compensating the community for a piece of land in what is now downtown Nanaimo, B.C.
Ninety-eight per cent of the 848 community members who cast a ballot in Saturday’s vote opted to accept the $49,148,121 deal, said Douglas White, acting chief of the Snueymuxw First Nation.
“I think the result really confirms that we took the right approach and that we ended up in the right spot from the perspective of our membership,” he said in an interview.
The settlement is compensation for a 32-hectare piece of land that White said was unlawfully taken from the First Nation in the 1880s.
“There was oral history in the nation about this reserve and this loss of this reserve,” he said.
A member of the community first raised the issue in the late 1980s, White said, and following several years of historical research and legal analysis, the federal government agreed in 2003 to begin negotiations for a settlement.
“It’s obviously been a lot of work over a generation or two. And it’s something that’s been on the minds of the members for a long period of time, so to finally get to this point where there’s some kind of resolution is remarkable.”
The agreement will also give the First Nation the right to request a replacement parcel of land, which White said could potentially include part of a former military camp in Nanaimo.
Money from the settlement will go into a trust that will create economic opportunities for the Snueymuxw First Nation both immediately and into the future, White said.
“We’ve been really concerned that this work has taken so long and many of the people that started it are no longer with us,” he explained. “So we’re trying to strike a balance between immediate benefits, but also setting up the trust in a way that provides for the nation over generations.”