Land Claims

Minutes of a Public Meeting with Provincial and Federal Negotiating Team Members October 21, 2008

Public Consultation Meeting sponsored by Hornby Island Residents’ & Ratepayers’ Association (HIRRA), Islands Trust and the Comox Valley Regional District (CVRD), Area K – October 21, 2008 at the Hornby Island Community Hall

Re: The Mt. Geoffrey Crown Land Parcel and the K’omoks First Nation’s Treaty Negotiations

Present: Elected officials: Ron Emerson and Tony Law, Island Trustees; Carol Quin, Comox Valley Regional Director, Area K; Ron Sitter, HIRRA President.

Negotiators

Federal: Seanna McConnell, negotiator; Jehan Casey, communications and consultation advisor; Leigh Freeman, assistant negotiator.
Provincial: Trevor Proverbs, Chief negotiator for B.C.; Lisa Jackson, assistant negotiator

Chair, Fred Hunt; Recording Secretary: Janet LeBlancq, Administrator, HIRRA and 102 members of the community.

Process

Members of the provincial negotiating team will talk about the Treaty Negotiation Process, answer questions and listen to the community thoughts and concerns.

There were several detailed maps of the upland crown lands posted.

Call to Order

The assembly was called to order at 7:07 P.M. Carol Quin welcomed everyone. Fred Hunt introduced the provincial and federal negotiators.

Trevor Proverbs gave background information about the K’omoks peoples’ interests in Hornby Island. He noted that the treaty negotiating process is under some pressure because a lot of Crownland is disappearing in Comox Valley. There is very little Crownland south of Campbell River, which is an issue in putting together a land package. The K’omoks band identified the existing Crownland outside of Mt. Geoffrey Nature Park as available to be included in their land claim. They are not interested in logging the land or in developing it. They are interested in establishing a cultural presence on the island, a moderate presence, such as a small-scale commercial undertaking, an opportunity that coincides with the existing values of the island. Over the past two months the negotiators have had information gathering sessions with the CVRD board of directors, the president of HIRRA and the island trustees.

Trevor stated that the negotiating team understands the major interest of water conservation on the island. The team toured the island. They saw the areas first hand. They know how important the trails are, the role they play and the commercial spin offs. They have an idea about future developments of the island; they gained an understanding of where islanders don’t want development. Logging the upland Crown land has never been mentioned by the K’omoks people. Trevor stated that the team want to hear questions from the community. They (the negotiating team) are not considering putting large parts of land on the table. They (the K’omoks band) are interested in establishing a cultural presence.

Seanna McConnell spoke of the federal role in tripartite treaty negotiations.

Carol Quin spoke of the role of the CVRD and about the Mt. Geoffrey Regional Nature Park. She gave some history of the parklands including the Link Parsons land, now the Mt. Geoffrey Escarpment Park. Maps were referenced. Carol referred to the groundwater recharge function of all the upland areas and of the longstanding objective of the community to secure these lands for conservation purposes.

Ron Emerson thanked the negotiating team for these meetings. The longest chapter in the OCP speaks of these Crown lands and there are numerous trust policies designed to preserve and protect this area of the island from development.

Tony Law noted that the Islands Trust did make a formal presentation to the negotiating team. The trustees have met with the K’omoks in the past to build relationships.

Land in the trust area is under a provincially legislated mandate to preserve and protect, different from lands on Vancouver Island. He stated that the major values of the mountain uplands are as water recharge areas, habitat conservation and recreation including the tremendous value of stewardship of the trails.

The Heart of Hornby

This report, commissioned by HIRRA, was introduced by Tony Quin. In this study of the uplands, the committee reviewed all existing maps and reports and hired a consultant to do a value of the forest cover and identify the habitat areas. Many volunteers were involved in mapping the trails accurately. A copy of this report has been given to Trevor Proverbs. Doug Christie spoke of the uplands and the mapping that was done and noted that these are the first accurate maps that have been produced.

Ron Sitter noted “HIRRA is supportive of the First Nations process to settle land claims. HIRRA considers our Crown Lands to be precious. The Crown Lands collect, hold and filter the rainfall that ends up coming out of our taps. On this Island, we are dependent on rain water catchment systems and groundwater wells for our drinking water supply. From this perspective the Crown Lands, and the fir forest trees that are the soul of that system, are sacred to us. The Crown lands are also important because of the extensive network of trails that have been developed over decades and that are maintained by this community. These trails provide access routes for people walking and biking to various destinations.

This trail network also draws tourism to Hornby. Hornby’s trails are well known to recreational hikers and mountain bikers. This aspect promotes tourism on Hornby and results in an important infusion of summer tourist dollars into the community. Many Islanders wild-harvest for food for their kitchen tables.” A copy of this address was provided to the negotiators.

The Heart of the Island

Jan Bevan summarized this report done by an Islands Trust’s advisory Crownland committee. Jan, a 40-year resident of Hornby Island, gave a brief history of logging on Hornby’s uplands. Before logging in the early years of the 20th century, the trees were so far apart that you could see the ocean from anywhere on the mountain and the streams flowed year round. Now, some 40+ years since the last major logging, the streams are recovering, indicative of forest health. The goal of keeping the upland Crownland intact was the conclusion reached by this study. A report copy was given to the negotiating team.

Peter Brady, Water Stewardship: After so many presenters stressed the water recharge role of the uplands, Peter stated that he concludes that the negotiating team understands the water recharge function. Water studies revealed that the upland Crownland has the highest level of vulnerability listed in the Hodge report. Peter cited several other reports done which have firmly identified the upland Crownland as extremely sensitive water recharge area that must be protected. Letters from the report authors and an information package citing previous material was given to the negotiating team.

Doug Christie keeps a weekly record of rainfall and well levels at his property which lies at the baseline of the upland Crownland water recharge area. Copies of these data were distributed to the negotiating team.

Brian Kittleson, member of the HIRRA Regional Parks/ Crownland Trails maintenance committee profiled the work done by the committee. He stated that the trails maintenance contractor has attended conferences in trail building sponsored by the international mountain bike trail building association, and Hornby has hosted a trail building workshop. He noted that trail work is principally protection against erosion. The recreation opportunities of the upland areas are highly valued by the community.

Fred Hunt thanked all the presenters and invited questions.

Summary of Q&A session

Trevor Proverbs responded to questions from the audience.

Direct commentary from islanders is identified in italic bold lettering.

  • Jurisdiction – any lands that are settlement lands are not subject to local government land use bylaws. However, first nations are asked to join the regional district. Agreements to land use have been drawn up between local government and first nations in past negotiations.
  • A concern for the water conservation role of the uplands was mentioned numerous times.
  • The upland is not interesting in a business location sense. Suggested that the negotiating team recommend the purchase the Thatch and give it to the First Nations.
  • The negotiators have no intention of putting a large portion of these lands on the treaty table.
  • Could First Nations control the water supply on Horny Island? The negotiators stated this would not happen.
  • This is a wonderful opportunity to give back to these people what we’ve taken from them.
  • This island has been visited by many different bands, why is only the K’omoks band claiming Hornby lands? Comox band proximity to Goose spit, Denman, Hornby, and Tree island was noted by the negotiator. Other bands undoubtedly visited Hornby and may have land claim interests. First Nations people do agreements with each other in cases of lands that are of interest to more than one band.
  • There isn’t much Crownland left to use in treaty negotiations.
  • This really is a political process.
  • The negotiators stated it would be too costly to establish the proof of an historical presence of First Nations in any given area.
  • The total amount of land involved in the treaty is not known at this time.
  • We should be welcoming of First Nations.
  • Hornby Island plays a very small role. The big pieces of land involved in the treaty settlement will be on Vancouver Island.
  • They are primarily interested in a cultural presence, which might involve 10 or 20 hectares of Hornby land that the K’omoks people could use to have, for example, a commercial enterprise such as a campground.
  • Where is the human element in these negotiations? It would be valuable to have the K’omoks people come to a meeting and share their history and intentions with Hornbyites.
  • The Scott property, bordering on Big tribune beach, would be an ideal place for a campground. The negotiators walked about that property and it makes sense.
  • The community has concerns around the ever-increasing public litter at Tribune Beach.
  • What’s to stop any other band from claiming lands here? First Nations do discuss with each other where overlapping territories exist; Hornby is within the Statement of Intent area of several First Nations and others could potentially claim lands on the island in the future.
  • The Hornby archives group would be interested in doing historical studies with the K’omoks band.
  • Could the community secure the upland Crownland in exchange for the Scott property?
  • Respect for the First Nations people has been stated as an objective.
  • Excited to hear that the K’omoks band intends to have a cultural presence on Hornby.
  • Respect for the native land claims is noted in the Hornby Island Official Community Plan.
  • If the First Nations secured the uplands, the terms of an existing water license would remain unchanged.
  • Would want the First Nations to respect the community plans.
  • There is more commercial potential for First Nations on the Scott property than up Strachan Valley Road the main road access to the upland Crownland.
  • The predictions regarding the time required to reach a treaty agreement were noted by Trevor Proverbs. The plan is to have an offer on the table before the end of 2008. This plan may be delayed by the current political realities, elections and all. After the offer is on the table and negotiations begin, they could reach an agreement in principle in 2009. If the three parties get approval, they proceed into final negotiations, generally a two-year process. Then all three parties must ratify the agreement. It is predicted that the earliest possible date for a final treaty agreement would be 2012.
  • The K’omoks band understands there is limited tourism money to be made on Hornby Island and that ever-rising ferry fares are a deterrent to commercial enterprise. They see a potential for a cultural interchange with islanders.
  • How can we engage the K’omoks people to discuss potentials? Negotiators agreed to facilitate this by informing the K’omoks band of our request.
  • Why did the K’omoks band not identify the 5.8 acres located adjacent to the community hall? They identified only the upland Crownland in their initial land claim.
  • The negotiating team will return to Hornby to have further meetings.

Adjourned at 9 PM by general consent.

___________________________

Fred Hunt, Chair
Janet LeBlancq, Recording Secretary