The links between Stz’uminus First Nation and Ladysmith were strengthened on Monday afternoon, thanks to a $1.4 million funding announcement by the Government of Canada.
The funds will be used to extend water and sewage services from Ladysmith to lands around the Ivy Green Husky gas station. Once those services are in place, Stz’uminus will be able to develop the 25-hectare Four Corners site for commercial, professional and retail buildings.
“Our intent as a First Nation is to build a sustainable, local economy that provides jobs for our community and supports our way of life,” said Chief John Elliott at ceremonies in the Stz’uminus elders’ centre near Shell Beach.
Handing over the cheque was MP John Duncan, who is the minister of aboriginal affairs and northern development. Also in attendance was Ladysmith Mayor Rob Hutchins and members of the town council.
Elliott raised his hands in thanks to them.
“We wish to thank the mayor and council of the Town of Ladysmith for their support and commitment to creating more business opportunities in the Stz’uminus-Ladysmith area of Vancouver Island,” he said.
Co-ordinating the Four Corners plan is the Coast Salish Development Corporation (CSDC), the economic development arm of Stz’uminus First Nation. CSDC was set up in 2009 and operates property management, forestry, construction and fishery/aquaculture businesses. It is guided by a 20-year economic development strategy that was created in 2010.
The Four Corners site may eventually become a “town centre” as residential development, accommodation and hospitality services, assisted living services and other facilities are built.
Behind any developments will be the story of the leadership of the two communities coming together over the past several years. Ladysmith and Stz’uminus councils recently renewed a protocol agreement. That followed several years of the two councils meeting monthly for get-to-know-you sessions.
Elliott and Hutchins have become familiar faces together at community events. Both say that their partnership — and that between the two communities — is necessary.
“Our community is not sustainable with past practices,” Hutchins said earlier this year at an economic development event at Stz’uminus. He spoke about the ethnic and social separations between the communities. “I realized that we can only be successful together. It makes total economic, social and environmental sense.”
“It is so important that our communities come together,” he said. “If we don’t, we will both suffer.”
During his two terms as chief, Elliott said a highlight has been the work the two councils have done together.
“We had to break the old-school mentality of fighting with each other,” he said. “Now we have open minds, and it opens doors.”
Mark Kieleman is editor of www.klahowya.ca.