That’s been a consistent message from Chief and Council, and led by various departments within the Seabird Island Band office.
When the Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) held its annual convention in Vancouver the week of Sept. 21st to Sept. 25th, the Seabird Island Band was represented by Jay Hope, Corporate Affairs Director, and Brian Titus, Chief Executive Officer of the Sqéwqel Development Corporation.
They attended various study sessions and networking events, and met with as many Provincial Ministers as they could. Then, on Sept. 24, Hope and Titus had the opportunity to present to delegates at one of the workshops.
Mutual Prosperity of First Nations and Municipalities was the focus of this particular workshop. Hope and Titus teamed up with District of Kent Mayor John Van Laerhoven and CAO Wallace Mah to describe the Community Economic Development Initiative partnership which exists between Seabird and Kent.
“One of the keys that came out of this was speaking to the UBCM delegates as a whole. I think it’s important to realize that local First Nations and local municipalities will find their own way of working together. They’ll find their own dynamics. Each group is challenged in different ways, whether it be geographical or population wise, or physical space between each other,” stated Jay Hope after the workshop had been completed. “I think it’s important for people to take advantage of these relationships.
It just doesn’t benefit one party. It benefits both. And to the end, it benefits the region and the province as well. Those opportunities for collaboration will certainly help things.”
Well, it’s certainly good business to engage your neighbours in anything you do. And, most importantly, there are no borders in economic development. Partnering is about the economic benefits and other spin offs you can gain from a good working relationship.
It became very obvious during the presentation that Seabird Island Band and the District of Kent have a strong working relationship.
“We now have a much clearer understanding of the direction of where Seabird is going, and what they see as their future vision, and what they see as helping their people grow and prosper.
I think Seabird sees the same as us,” stated Van Laerhoven.
“The regular getting-together helps to maintain that relationship. I think we trusted each other before.
I think we trust each other even more now.”
The key to this partnership is allowing both sides to get staff involved, and exchange ideas.
“I think that proves we have a commitment. We all know as councillors our lives are busy dealing with the political end of things. The actual works gets done on the ground by staff people. Staff people getting to meet each other, staff people supporting each other helps move initiatives forward,” added Van Laerhoven. “We’re committed to it – so we’re moving forward with it. I’m looking forward to the Agassiz/Harrison Area First Nations Business Forum Oct. 20-21 in Harrison. I think it’s going to be a wonderful event. All the communities in the area get to move forward when a positive initiative happens in one of them.”
Seabird Island Band and the District of Kent have collaborated on joint funding applications, joint petitioning of Federal and Provincial bodies, and currently share Fire and Protective Services.
“I think the integration of council sand staff is really important. It sets a tone for a working relationship,” summarized Hope. “I see this going in a very exciting direction. For one thing, we understand what the District of Kent is looking forward to in the future.
“The challenges we both have now is how can we work through those challenges collaborately, and how can we ensure that when we’re doing something at Seabird, that it’s going to complement things in the District of Kent, and it’s going to allow them to take advantage of whatever we’re doing as well.”
The most telling indication of the successful partnership achieved by Seabird Island and Kent came when one of the delegates stood up, and remarked that he hears about so many great things coming out of Seabird Island, initiatives that First Nations Bands and other municipalities look to copy by getting a first-hand account of the success stories.