North Cowichan is looking to host joint council-to-council meetings with the First Nations in the Cowichan Valley for the first time.
Letters from the municipality will be sent to the Lyackson, Halalt and Penalakut First Nations’ chiefs and councils to determine if there is interest in having joint council-to-council meetings to discuss matters of mutual interest.
The decision to send the letters was made by North Cowichan’s council at its regular meeting in July.
North Cowichan’s Mayor Al Siebring said the idea for the meetings developed after a lunch-time meeting he had with Cowichan Tribes Chief William Seymour in June to discuss plans for upcoming council-to-council meetings with Cowichan Tribes.
Cowichan Tribes is preparing to host the first one between the First Nation and North Cowichan in the near future.
“In the past, the only time joint council meetings were held between the municipality and First Nations’ councils was when a situation had developed that had become problematic,” he said.
“A few years ago when North Cowichan was working on changing some roads in the Stoney Hill area, we had to deal with some territorial matters with the Cowichan Tribes regarding burial grounds and other issues. It was turning into a crisis situation and the only way it could be resolved was with a joint council-to-council meeting with the First Nation. We thought it would be better if we hold such meetings a couple of times a year to discuss matters of mutual interest rather than just having them when a problem is encountered.”
Siebring said the idea of inviting the other local First Nations to also hold such meetings was given a green light from the municipality’s First Nations relations committee before it went before council.
“The meetings will likely be modelled on the regular joint meetings we have with the City of Duncan’s council, in which each council has two agenda items to discuss,” he said.
“It will be up to staff to figure out the procedural questions. If the plan for the meetings with the other First Nations proceeds, one of the first issues I would like to see discussed is our update to the official community plan. We’re dealing with land in that process that are on some of the First Nations’ traditional territories.”