The Haisla Nation reserve is likely to double in size should the federal government finalize an Addition to Reserve proposal currently before it.
Indigenous Services Canada spokesperson Rola Tfaili confirmed that an Addition to Reserve proposal is being considered by Ottawa.
The proposal is for the inclusion of two lots of property south of the village, lots 305 and 306, which were purchased by the Haisla from Alcan, along with four other lots around Kitimat.
The other lots include Lots 309 and 99, on which a proposed propane processing facility will be built through a partnership between the Haisla Nation and Pacific Traverse Energy.
The lots remain private property and are not included in the reserve until the federal government approves the Addition to Reserve.
“The proposal is currently in Phase 3 of the 2016 Additions to Reserve/Reserve Creation Policy. A letter of support was issued by the department to the (Haisla) on October 9, 2018,” said Tfaili.
“The First Nation and Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) are now working together to meet the criteria listed in the letter to complete this project.”
Tfaili said all Addition to Reserve proposals go through four phases before the expansion can take place:
* Initiation – the First Nation submits a Band Council Resolution and Reserve Creation Proposal to the ISC regional office.
* Assessment and review – the ISC reviews the proposal and advises the First Nation in writing of the results, issuing a letter of support to First Nations with successful proposals.
* Proposal completion – the ISC and the First Nation work together to create and execute a work plan to complete the proposal.
* Approval – the Minister of Indigenous Services approves proposals by Ministerial Order or recommends approval by the Governor in Council for Order in Council proposals.
Tfaili said the Kitamaat Village proposal had already passed the first two of the four phases.
The expansion also has the backing of local bodies and provincial ministries.
In a letter sent by B.C.’s minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation Scott Fraser to the federal ministers of Crown–Indigenous Relations, and Indigenous Services, Carolyn Bennett and Jane Philpott in September 2018, Fraser said the province had no objection to the transfer of Lots 305 and 306 from the province’s jurisdiction for an Addition to Reserve for the Haisla Nation.
For the federal government to be able to add land to extend the boundaries of a reserve, the land has to be transferred from provincial to federal jurisdiction.
“Supporting (the) Haisla’s ATR proposal is a positive step towards reconciliation, and I look forward to working with (the federal government) to conclude this process, which I believe will provide significant benefits to the Haisla,” said Fraser.
He added that the minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs (CIRNAC) would be seeking local government support, including from the District of Kitimat and the Regional District of Kitimat-Stikine, prior to formally recommending that the lots be transferred and added to the current reserve, Kitamaat IR No. 2.
“Part of the rationale for this transfer is the Haisla’ s population which has grown significantly since the establishment of Kitamaat IR No. 2,” said Fraser. “This population growth is creating development pressure — demands for residential, commercial, recreational and institutional development are high.”
District of Kitimat spokesperson Mike Dewar said it is unlikely the DoK would be asked to comment on the ATR.
“The District supports the Haisla Nation in its efforts, but the lots are south of Kitamaat Village and outside district boundaries.”
Regional District of Kitimat-Stikine planning and development services manager Ted Pellegrino said the regional district has supported the expansion from when it was first mooted in the late 1990s and when the two lots were transferred from the province to federal government jurisdiction for the express purpose of including the lots into Kitamaat IR No. 2.
“The regional district board reaffirmed its support for this proposal earlier in 2018,” said Pellegrino.
The two lots were bought from Alcan by the Haisla with money from what is dubbed the “1993 Settlement”, compensation granted by the federal government following a land claims process.
After lengthy negotiations between the federal government and the Haisla Nation, an agreement was reached on how to compensate the Haisla for a land issue stemming back to 1952. Under the terms of that settlement, the Haisla Nation received $430,000 in compensation.
“These monies were put away in the trust revenue account. It was also agreed that if the Haisla used these monies to purchase land in Haisla territory, the land would be converted into Reserve lands under the Addition to Reserves process,” reads a notice issued in 2010 ahead of information sessions that were held to inform Haisla members.
The two lots, totalling 120.2 hectares, were sold to the HNC on April 28, 2016.
Skeena MLA Ellis Ross, who was Haisla chief councillor from 2011 until he resigned to pursue a career in provinvial politics, is quite familiar with the proposal.
“This is a 60-year-old file that been with the Haisla Nation Council. If successful the proposal will more than double the size of reserve No. 2,” said Ross.
He cautioned against too much optimism, though, saying “additions to reserves are next to impossible to achieve” and that the process can take years, “if not decades.”
He said there is nothing on the two lots currently other than an old cemetery from the early 1900s.
“I think the original thought was for residential development, but my idea was to build further up the mountain behind the village instead and leave lots 305 and 306 for commercial purposes. I don’t know if the current council has any ideas for the land other than converting it to reserve,” said Ross.
He said waterfront development would be ideal for the two lots, especially considering the inland portions of the lots are quite hilly.
“Waterfront and strategic lands development was my goal for economic reasons, which I felt was a better option than treaty negotiations that were going nowhere for 30 years.”
The Haisla Nation Council did not respond to the Northern Sentinel’s requests for comment.