The province of B.C., the government of Canada, and the K'ómoks First Nation (KFN) are holding open houses this month to inform the public about their proposed treaty — a required step in the long, multi-decade process of modern treaty negotiation.
The three parties are nearly finished hammering out the details of an agreement in principle (AIP), which was signed in 2012 and included a land package.
The next step will be an additional offer of land and cash, which is expected later this fall.
The final treaty — which is considered a living document — will establish self-governance, and give the nation control over things like education, child and family services, and environmental management.
In the meantime, residents of the Comox Valley, on the central portion of eastern Vancouver Island, can attend in-person or virtual open houses to learn about some of the Crown land that B.C. and Canada have agreed to transfer to the K'ómoks, as well as agreements on harvesting rights and resource management. The nation's traditional territories span from just north of Nanaimo, to Sayward, north of Campbell River.
Celeste Haldane, chief commissioner of the B.C. Treaty Commission, says public engagement is vital to reconciliation. She says it's an opportunity for community members to learn about the treaty process.
"I think it's such an important venue, to build bridges between Indigenous communities and non-Indigenous communities, as we move forward together on our path of reconciliation."
While not everyone will agree with the treaty, Haldane says it's important to at least help them understand.
Melissa Quocksister is a member of the K'ómoks First Nation, and its treaty team. Her grandfather, Ernie Hardy Senior, began the process in 1994.
She spent time at information booths at community events this summer, talking to people about the treaty. She says most are excited, and supportive.
"When I show them the lands on the maps … most people believe that it's not enough!"
She says the land totals 0.02 per cent of the nation's traditional territory.
The maps are embedded in the agreement in principle, which is available online.
The open houses will take place in Courtenay (Sept. 10), Union Bay (Sept. 12), Sayward (Sept. 17), and online (Sept. 29).