Cutline: Sts'ailes Chief Willie Charlie and District of Kent Mayor Lorne Fisher take their turn signing a Memorandum of Understanding

Historic signing brings councils together

Harrison's absence from signing could be temporary

They called it an historic moment.

Several First Nation leaders, elders, councillors and band staff members met with the District of Kent in council chambers last Monday to sign a Memorandum of Understanding. The document includes signatures from Cheam, Scowlitz, Seabird and Sts’ailes First Nation bands, along with the Sto:lo Tribal Council and the District of Kent.

Mayor Lorne Fisher said it’s “a pretty major accomplishment for us to sit down with those four bands.”

It wasn’t very long ago that some of the bands weren’t even speaking to each other, he said.

Times have changed since then. The MOU was developed during a series of community to community forums held between all local bands, Kent and Harrison Hot Springs. But on Monday, the latter was missing from the signing table.

Harrison Mayor Ken Becotte told the Observer that the Village “hadn’t been party to the agenda beforehand.”

The Village of Harrison Hot Springs was a part of the discussions at the forums, the most previous of which was held on January 10. Harrison is even included in the draft of the MOU.

“It was very short notice for us,” Becotte said. “I wasn’t comfortable signing the agreement as council hadn’t had the chance to discuss or endorse it.”

Minutes show that Councillor Bob Perry was in attendance at the January 10 meeting, where the MOU was discussed and drafted.

There was one issue within the agreement that they wanted clarified, which hadn’t happened in time for Monday’s signing, Becotte said. He did not indicate what that issue was.

The lack of that voice at the table did not go unnoticed by those in attendance.

“It’s fair to say that we’re disappointed,” Tyrone McNeil vice-president of the Sto:lo Tribal Council said. “We’ve all been at the table with this for quite some time.”

But there is always room for more, he added. And in time, Harrison could be included in the memorandum.

“My understanding is that the issues (Harrison) has with the MOU wouldn’t take much to work out,” he said.

Becotte hopes that’s exactly what will happen.

“As soon as we’ve had the opportunity to discuss it further … I’m sure we’ll get back on the table,” he said.

While the overarching intent of the MOU is to be good neighbours, he said in reality the document has very sharp teeth. It will allow all six communities (if Harrison is to join in) to be one voice when dealing with federal government bodies.

This will be crucial in river management, McNeil said.

Government bodies, especially the DFO, seem to “play one of us off the other,” he said, stalling communications and making progress more difficult.

With all local governments meeting at the same table, they can work out their differences and face Ottawa as a solid team.

River management is probably the most pressing issue facing this area, McNeil said.

Flood risks could be lowered with proper gravel removal, such as was done up until the 1980s, he said.

“We need to come forward together on it,” he said.

With all six communities on board — the four local bands, the District and the Village — McNeil said that the MOU could be expanded to include more Sto:lo communities.

But the first order of business is “to lock up the four Sto:lo communities here, and Kent and Harrison,” he said.

news@ahobserver.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Body of Maple Ridge man recovered near Harrison Lake

21-year-old last seen on May 16 when he fell into Silver Creek

Missing since 2016, Marie Stuart’s remains found in Abbotsford

Pregnant Abbotsford woman was last seen in December 2016

‘Drive as fast as you can’: After 40 years, Mt. St. Helens eruption still hits close to home

Observer readers felt the effects even thousands of kilometres away

Harrison Hot Springs Resort eases in to reopening

Reservations available Friday, May 29

Potential for gravel removal this summer in Chilliwack has riled river stewards

Group says no ‘discernible merit’ for gravel mining when balanced off with the environmental damage

B.C. legislature coming back June 22 as COVID-19 emergency hits record

Pandemic restrictions now longer than 2017 wildfire emergency

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world in ways that would have… Continue reading

Nanaimo senior clocked going 50 km/hr over limit says her SUV shouldn’t be impounded

RCMP say they can’t exercise discretion when it comes to excessive speeding tickets

United Way allocating $6.6M in federal funding to help with food security, youth mental health

Applications from Fraser Valley and Lower Mainland charities being accepted for the emergency funding

Illicit-drug deaths up in B.C. and remain highest in Canada: chief coroner

More than 4,700 people have died of overdoses since B.C. declared a public health emergency in early 2016

CMHC sees declines in home prices, sales, starts that will linger to end of 2022

CMHC said average housing prices could fall anywhere from nine to 18 per cent in its forecast

B.C. Paralympian named to Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame

Three-time world and Paralympic gold medalist Sonja Gaudet is part of 11-member class

Soggy dog plucked from Vedder River by Chilliwack Search and Rescue

A 10 month old puppy bit off far more than she could chew throwing herself into the rushing river

B.C.’s essential grocery, hardware store employees should get pandemic pay: retail group

Only B.C.’s social, health and corrections workers are eligible for top-ups

Most Read