Monday February 8, 2021 | VIEW ROYAL, BC
by Mary P Brooke, editor | Island Social Trends
The Province of British Columbia has purchased a 3.4-hectare parcel of undeveloped private property in the Esquimalt and Songhees Nations’ territories to support reconciliation, it was stated in a release today from the Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation.
The Province purchased the Thetis Cove property from a private owner for $13 million in October 2020, with this announcement coming today February 8, 2021.
“The Thetis Cove property (within the Town of View Royal) presented a unique opportunity for us to advance reconciliation with Esquimalt Nation and support treaty discussions with Songhees Nation,” said Murray Rankin, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation.
“While we are at the beginning of our discussions with Esquimalt Nation and the broader community about the land, we see its significant potential for supporting Esquimalt Nation to thrive and prosper, which benefits everyone who lives in the region.”
The Province is in the early stages of negotiating a reconciliation agreement with Esquimalt Nation (which has about 320 members) and the federal government. The land was bought to help facilitate these discussions. The Province will hold the property until an agreement with Esquimalt Nation is negotiated and the land transfer process can be completed. This is expected to take three to five years.
“The return of our land will be a significant step in reconciliation and provides an opportunity to work constructively with other levels of government to create a healthy and prosperous future for our community,” said Esquimalt Nation Chief Robert Thomas.
The Province will continue to work with local First Nations and provide ongoing opportunities for consultation with municipal officials, residents and stakeholders as the negotiations progress.
“We are looking forward to working with Esquimalt Nation and the Province in a collaborative way that considers all of our interests as the future plans for Thetis Cove are developed,” said Mayor David Screech, Town of View Royal. “As neighbours, Esquimalt Nation and View Royal have much to gain from working together.”
Esquimalt Nation has a serious housing shortage for its members, and very little Crown land is available to support reconciliation with First Nations in the Capital Regional District. When the private property adjacent to the Esquimalt Nation reserve came up for sale, it presented a rare chance to include lands with housing and commercial development opportunities in reconciliation discussions with Esquimalt Nation.
“The acquisition of this land provides an opportunity to build more housing for members of Esquimalt Nation and presents greater opportunities for economic development,” said Mitzi Dean, MLA for Esquimalt-Metchosin. “As negotiations proceed, we will support a collaborative approach with all local officials and residents to build a strong, flourishing and vibrant community.”
The Thetis Cove property is located off Hallowell Road in the Town of View Royal, next to the E&N rail corridor and adjacent to Esquimalt Nation’s only reserve.