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Latest News: The Comox Valley Regional District issued a statement on May 31, 2021 to pay its respects to the memory of 215 innocent children whose remains were discovered at a former Kamloops residential school. Read the statement.

Advancing Reconcilation

The Comox Valley Regional District is committed to building its relationship with First Nations, Inuit and Metis peoples and advancing reconciliation.  At its first meeting of 2021, the Comox Valley Regional District (CVRD) Board of Directors adopted a statement of reconciliation that will continue to guide the CVRD’s work with Indigenous peoples.

The statement formally recognizes the CVRD’s commitment to Reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples, as outlined in The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and several other key documents including The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action and Sec. 35 of the Canadian Constitution Act

Read the Statement 

The CVRD has named Indigenous Relations as one of four strategic drivers, through which CVRD services are being delivered. To support Indigenous Relations as a driver, the CVRD adopted a framework in September 2019 to deliver core services with an Indigenous Relations lens and promote greater cultural awareness.

Some primary objectives of this framework include enhancing the knowledge and understanding of Indigenous culture and history, including the modern day legacy of colonial history; building capacity of all elected officials and staff to be engaged in collaborative work with Indigenous communities and people; and responding to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action and the United Nation’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Read the Framework

Implementing the Indigenous Relations framework will be an ongoing effort that will evolve and respond to current events and future goals. Adequate resources must be considered for effective implementation, and will be addressed as programs are considered. Each year, staff will report on specific activities undertaken and planned to support the Framework. This includes enhancing cultural awareness for the CVRD as well as continued efforts to meet with K’ómoks First Nation on a regular basis to advance various projects. Funding to accomplish these goals will come from a combination of sources including grants and the general government administration service. Additional resources may be required in subsequent years as the work plan evolves and mid to long-term strategies are implemented.

2020 Progress Report

The following describes various activities undertaken in 2020 to support advancing reconciliation. In addition to regular and ongoing discussions between the CVRD and Indigenous peoples on projects and day-to-day service delivery, such as water supply, sewage collection/treatment, recreation, transit and solid waste, several activities illustrate the progressive work to advance Indigenous interests.

Summer Recreation Program: The CVRD and the Wachiay Friendship Centre co-hosted Earthbound Kids, an all-day Indigenous cultural camp, on July 13-17, 2020. The camp sought to enhance the community’s understanding of reconciliation by raising the awareness of Indigenous cultural identity. Through activities such as talking circles and storytelling, camp participants learned about ancestral teachings and tradition and the important connection to the land. The CVRD was awarded a $10,000 grant through the Union of BC Municipalities’ Urban Communities Partnering for Reconciliation to fund the program.

CVRD and KFN Leadership Meetings: The CVRD Chair and Chief Administrative Officer along with key elected officials and project managers participated in monthly Kómoks First Nation (KFN) Chief and Council meetings to review CVRD operational procedures and supporting documentation as projects and initiated and advanced. Of note, 11 meetings between KFN and CVRD leadership were held in 2020, addressing more than 30 specific projects.

Community Benefits Agreement: In late 2020, the CVRD and KFN ratified a Community Benefits Agreement that commits both parties to work together collaboratively on a regional solution for sewer. The partnership recognizes the existing sewer line through Indian Reserve (IR1) was expropriated without adequate consultation and provides compensation for past and future impacts of sewer infrastructure within the reserve. The agreement will provide needed upgrades for Comox and Courtenay sewer infrastructure, while supporting the growth and economic development plans of the K’ómoks community.

South Sewer Extension Project: An extension of sewer service into Royston and Union Bay, that will service KFN development lands, is in the early stages of assessment. This project supports progress towards provincial reconciliation and the principles of the United Nations declaration. The CVRD is currently:

  • Undertaking further assessment and technical evaluation including further review of potential costs.
  • In discussion with the K’ómoks First Nation and Union Bay Estates.
  • Pursuing grant opportunities.

While further outreach was proposed for the fall of 2020, that timing has been revised as the CVRD awaits further information about grant opportunities. It is expected the next update will be available in early 2021. The work supporting the south sewer extension is building upon ongoing work between the CVRD and KFN on the liquid waste management planning process, the sewer conveyance lines and the partnerships formed through the water treatment plant construction project.

Referrals Management Program: The CVRD, KFN and other local First Nations utilize a jointly agreed upon referrals management program to facilitate dialogue on land use planning applications. The program has been in place since 2012.

Seal Bay Signage Project: Recognizing that Seal Bay Park lies within K’ómoks First Nation traditional territory the CVRD and KFN worked in partnership to plan signage improvements and enhance the overall park visitor experience while promoting understanding of the cultural heritage and values within the park. Seal Bay Park (referred to as ‘Xwee Xwhya Luq’ by KFN) contains cultural and natural values that are important to the KFN. Indigenous people traditionally visited the Seal Bay area for resource harvesting and to camp when traveling through the area by canoe. The new signage reflects a variety of natural park elements, animals and cultural references with emphasis on the traditional Ayajuthem language. Ayajuthem is a Coast Salish language shared between the peoples of K’ómoks, Tla'Amin, Homalco and Klahoose.

CVRD Liaison to K’ómoks First Nation Treaty Negotiation Process: The Board appointed Director Hillian to be the liaison between teh CVRD and teh Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation for the K’ómoks First Nation treaty negotiation process. This includes regular attendance and participating in treaty discussions where various perspectives are shared and understanding is sought.

Community to Community Forum: The CVRD participated in a C2C forum in November hosted by KFN and included topics related to reconciliation, the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act and the KFN’s cultural heritage policy.

Meaningful Engagement Handbook: The CVRD worked with KFN to develop a handbook as a resource to assist CVRD staff in building a successful engagement experience with the KFN. The handbook supports the improvement of CVRD’s internal practices and provides staff with the tools needed to work with KFN, in accordance with the Nation’s own procedures and decision making authority. It is intended to build on the Protocol Agreement signed in 2010 and the CVRD is very much appreciative of the guidance provided by Chief and Council in drafting this document.

2021 Planned Activities

Proposed Indigenous Relations Work Plan 2021

Building on the CVRD's Indigenous Relations Framework and the proposed Statement of Reconciliation, several activities are anticipated for 2021. The themes that frame the Statement (self-determination, shared prosperity, protection of cultural heritage and relationship with land and water) can help identify the activities the CVRD undertakes to ensure work advances on the promise to reconcile. Some projects relate to internal capacity building measures (at the Elected Official and staff levels) whereas others are more public-facing and incorporate third party interests or direct partnerships with Indigenous peoples.

Activities Internal to CVRD 

  • Indigenous cultural awareness training will be offered in 2021 for Elected Officials and CVRD staff. The training will have wide-ranging benefits for the CVRD, by providing an opportunity to learn how Canada’s colonial history has impacted the lives of Indigenous Peoples and to help develop a deeper understanding of the continued impacts of a wide range of Indigenous issues.  
  • Several working groups around the province are investigating and considering process improvements for promoting Indigenous relations and reconciliation. In particular, the Planning Institute of BC and the Vancouver Parks Board are researching best practices in the public sector and understanding how those practices can be applied to local settings. CVRD staff are staying up-to-date on these findings and will look to integrate the findings into CVRD policies and practices. A fall 2021 report to the Board will record the actions and findings.
  • Utilizing external supports, a 2021 goal is to develop mid to long term strategies to implement the Indigenous Relations Framework. A range of topics are noted in the framework, and expert advice will be sought to put together a plan for effective implementation. Internal consultation with branches and the Board of Directors will help to build the plan, recognizing any resource and operational constraints. Developing the plan will also incorporate the ongoing work that is underway with KFN. A report to the Board in late 2021 will present the strategy.
  • The K’ómoks First Nation announced its Cultural Heritage Policy in late 2020. The CVRD will further its understanding of ways in which the policy can be integrated to CVRD policies and practices including through legislated means and staff and public education. Collaboration amongst the Comox Valley municipalities will be important to align collective interests and honour KFN’s principles.

Activities to Build on External Relations 

  • The CVRD was successful in receiving grant funding from the Union of BC Municipalities to host a community to community forum early in 2021. The CVRD is connecting with KFN to confirm dates and topics. The theme for the event will likely relate to the application of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples at a local level. Additional funding for future C2C events will be sought. 
  • The CVRD intends to continue its regular leadership meetings with KFN, in order to continue building the relationship, share information, gain perspective and find community solutions. A minimum of 10 meetings per year are expected where major projects and initiatives are presented for specific input from KFN.
  • Director Doug Hillian, representing the CVRD, continues to act in a liaison capacity between the CVRD and the Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation for the K’ómoks First Nation treaty negotiation process.
  • The CVRD will continue to operate under the CVRD, KFN and other local FNs referrals management program to facilitate dialogue on land use planning applications.
  • Where possible, applications will be made for grant funding to support projects that advance reconciliation with Indigenous peoples and align with CVRD services, such as the summer recreation programs conducted in 2020. Further programming options in partnership with community groups such as Wachiay are also considered on a regular basis.