Tseshaht First Nation and the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District (ACRD) have signed an agreement to strengthen their government-to-government relationship.
The accord, which was signed on Tuesday, Oct. 19, creates a formal arrangement between Tseshaht and the ACRD to establish a cooperative and collaborative government-to-government relationship for the purpose of sharing information, improving communication and addressing specific concerns. The accord is a “living document” that can be modified from time to time by both parties.
Tseshaht First Nation has already signed similar agreements with the Port Alberni Port Authority (PAPA) and the City of Port Alberni.
“We’ve always talked about doing this with the ACRD,” said Wahmeesh Ken Watts, Tseshaht First Nation’s elected Chief Councillor, on Tuesday. “It’s nice to actually see the pen to paper.”
Tseshaht was represented during the signing by Watts, hereditary chief Josh Goodwill and executive director Vicky White. The ACRD was represented by board chair John Jack, board vice-chair John McNabb and acting CAO Teri Fong.
Watts talked about some of the areas of interest to Tseshaht in the ACRD, such as the Alberni Valley Landfill (which is located close to Tseshaht’s main reserve), emergency response and preparedness plans and a new regional aquatic centre.
“As a nation I don’t want to sit back,” said Watts. “I’d like to know how we can actually support the ACRD.”
Jack said the document is “a first step” in recognizing Tseshaht First Nation’s place in the region and a way to ensure that the ACRD abides by documents such as the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action.
Both Jack and Watts said they would like to one day see Tseshaht with a chair at the board table. At this time, provincial legislation says that only treaty nations can join regional districts as voting board members. The Tseshaht are not considered a treaty nation.
“This is a commitment on behalf of the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District that we will do our utmost to communicate clearly, and eventually get you at the table,” said Jack. “There aren’t enough voices at the regional district table with full votes. And as a result, we speak with a diminished voice.”