Plans for two properties run by Providence Farm will be reviewed after concerns were raised by Cowichan Tribes.
The Vancouver Island Providence Community Association which operates Providence Farm, a therapeutic community and charity whose mission is the stewardship of 400 acres of land on Tzouhalem Road and the delivery of programs for people with mental health issues, applied to the Municipality of North Cowichan to expand the boundaries of the South End Water Local Service to include two adjacent lots it has on Donnay Drive South, totalling 3.8 hectares.
The VIPCA said in its application that it doesn’t have plans to connect the lots, which currently have no structures on them, with the water service at this time, but a staff report indicates that the VIPCA wants to market the two properties in the future.
Staff had recommended that council give the first three readings to the bylaw amendment to allow the expansion of the water service, but a letter to North Cowichan from Cowichan Tribes Chief William Seymour brought the process to a halt.
He said he can only assume that the application request from the VIPCA is for a future residential/commercial development on the two lots.
“If so, on behalf of Cowichan Tribes, I would like to restate our objection to any development of the Providence Farm property,” Seymour said.
“According to my elders, Providence Farm was to have reverted back to Cowichan Tribes once the lands and building were no longer being utilized for the education of Indigenous children. This did not occur and today we continue to seek ways in which Cowichan Tribes could acquire the lands back.”
Seymour said that therefore, as stated at a meeting with North Cowichan elected officials and staff in November 2018, Cowichan Tribes continues to oppose attempts to further develop or partition the property.
At North Cowichan’s council meeting on Feb. 16, Mayor Al Siebring acknowledged that he, CAO Ted Swabey and other senior staff members were at the meeting Seymour refers to, and there were some discussions around Cowichan Tribes’ issues with Providence Farm and the return of the land to the First Nation.
Coun. Kate Marsh said the issue is one the municipality should respect.
“If Cowichan Tribes members were sent to residential school at Providence Farm on the condition that if the school closed, [Cowichan Tribes] would get their land back, then that’s really important to settle before we do anything else on that land,” Marsh said.
The application from the VIPCA was referred back to staff to explore the legal issues involved with the properties, and staff will report back to council at a future meeting.