Victoria, BC– The Capital Regional District (CRD) Board has unanimously supported an agreement with the T’Sou-ke First Nation to access the Leech Water Supply Area for traditional use activities.
The Leech Water Supply Area, purchased by the CRD in 2007 and 2010, lies within the traditional territories of the T’Sou-ke, Scia’new (Beecher Bay) and the Malahat First Nations. South Island Nations are signatories to the 1850 Douglas Treaties, which provide for “the liberty to hunt over the unoccupied lands and to carry on our fisheries as formerly”. The CRD has made relationship-building with First Nations a Board priority and understands and respects the critical importance of Indigenous people’s relationship to the land and “this place”.
“The lands that you call the Leech Watershed are in the heart of our territory said Chief Planes. “Those smoke-house mountains are sacred to us, they have provided food and medicines for our people since time immemorial. This is one of our places our children learn the Sentocen language while walking the land with their elders, teaching handed down from our ancestors.”
The Regional Water Commission recently voted to close public access to the Leech area, in a long-range program to restore the logged area over time, in anticipation of one day expanding the drinking water supply area in the future. A final decision by the Board has not been made as to whether the area should be closed off to all public use, or to create a permitting system for controlled access by user groups.
Over the course of a year, CRD staff have worked with and learned from T’Sou-ke First Nation to frame the basis of an agreement to allow for and facilitate traditional use access activities in the Leech while ensuring the highest standards for personal safety, environmental protection and fire prevention.
“I am proud of this partnership,” said CRD Board Chair Barbara Desjardins. “The CRD has come a long way in understanding First Nations relationship to the land. Most importantly, we are so grateful for the leadership Chief Planes and his Council have shown in negotiating this agreement.”
Other First Nations in the region are expected to have an interest in negotiating a similar agreement with the CRD for traditional use access given the scarcity of wilderness in their respective territories. The CRD will respect local First Nations protocols for granting permission to “visiting” Nations before embarking on further agreements.
“It is protocol for neighbouring Nations to ask permission to hunt in our territory,” said Chief Planes. “We are certainly open to working with the CRD to share this sacred land with our relatives.”
A signing ceremony, marking this important agreement, is slated for April.
Celebrating 50 years! The CRD delivers regional, sub-regional and local services to 13 municipalities and three electoral areas on southern Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands. Governed by a 24 member Board of Directors, the CRD works collaboratively with First Nations and all levels of government to enable sustainable growth, enhance community well-being, and develop cost-effective infrastructure while continuing to provide core services to residents throughout the region.
For media inquiries, please contact:
Andy Orr, Senior Manager
CRD Corporate Communications
Chief Gordon Planes
T’Sou-ke First Nation