Land, hydro bring Tofino treaty nearer
VICTORIA – The B.C. government signed an agreement Friday with a Tofino-area aboriginal community that both parties described as a key step towards a treaty settlement and economic development.
The Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation receives $500,000 to help develop a six-megawatt hydroelectric project in the Kennedy River watershed, and 12 hectares of land around the Tla-o-qui-aht-owned Best Western Tin-Wis Resort. It is the first time a staged approach to settling aboriginal land and resource claims has been attempted under the B.C. Treaty Commission.
Tla-o-qui-aht Chief Councillor Moses Martin said the power and tourism development reached under B.C.'s first incremental treaty agreement benefits the entire region.
After the new approach to treaty settlements was pioneered in 2008, the Tla-o-qui-aht built their first run-of-river power project, a 5.5 megawatt facility that began selling power to the BC Hydro in 2010.
"It is profitable and has given us the confidence to move forward to the next project," Martin said.
Aboriginal Relations Minister Ida Chong said the trust built through the Tla-o-qui-at agreement brings a full treaty settlement within reach.
"Why wait when there is agreement to move forward?" Chong said. "Why wait when we can see those jobs created in your community that much faster?"
B.C. has since signed two other interim treaty agreements, with the Klahoose First Nation on the southern B.C. coast and the Nazko First Nation near Quesnel.