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‘Long, hard road’ leads to Vancouver Island land agreements

A parking lot near the British Columbia legislature in Victoria and the current site of a government liquor store in nearby Esquimalt are two of several Vancouver Island properties slated to be transferred to five native groups in advance of treaty settlements.

The land agreements are all on southern Vancouver Island, as are the five communities involved.

Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation Minister Ida Chong said during a signing ceremony on Tuesday at the legislature that the pretreaty deals are part of the government's continuing work in which partial settlements are offered during the treaty negotiation process. Prior to the five Vancouver Island agreements, the government reached five other incremental deals with native groups across B.C. The five Vancouver Island communities are negotiating a land-claims treaty with the B.C. and federal governments as members of the Te'mexw Treaty Association.

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"The agreements we are celebrating today with the nations of the Te'mexw Treaty Association will bring tangible benefits to your members within the treaty process," Ms. Chong said. "They will bring new opportunities that will benefit not only the five Te'mexw Treaty Association members, but neighbouring communities across Vancouver Island."

The first nations signing incremental agreements include, Victoria's Songhees First Nation, the Snaw-naw-as Nation north of Nanaimo, the Malahat Nation near Shawnigan Lake and the Sooke-area first nations, the Scia'new Nation (formerly Beecher Bay) and T'Sou-ke First Nation.

Snaw-naw-as Chief David Bob said he was humbled and proud to be signing a deal that helps provide economic stability for his people.

"It's been a long, hard road that we've gone down," he said. "The signing of these documents will help us to start getting development happening in our communities, which we've been seeking for a long time."

Ms. Chong said the Snaw-naw-as will receive two pieces of property, about 6.4 hectares in size, located within the Nanaimo Regional District. The Scia'new Nation will receive a 67-hectare piece of land while the T'Sou-ke nation gets one of two 60-hectare land parcels after signing the agreement.

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