Tlowitsis ATR Qs and As
Updated June 14, 2016
Who we are
Q: Who are the Tlowitsis, and where are you from?
The Tlowitsis are a British Columbia First Nation of over 400 registered members. Our traditional territories span the coastal area of Northern Vancouver Island, Johnstone Strait and adjacent mainland inlets. From time immemorial until the 1960s, we occupied numerous sites throughout these lands. Seasonal travel routes, food processing locations, burial and cultural sites and other named places extend across the entire territory. Kalugwis, located on Turnour Island, was our primary winter residence.
The Tlowitsis were displaced from our traditional village of Kalagwees on Turnour Island in the 1960s, leading our people to be culturally and physically separated from our traditional territories. Since then, we have been a First Nation without a formal community to call home, with limited opportunities available to our people to take an active role in their community. We have been searching for lands to establish a new community since the 1980s.
The Tlowitsis currently have an office on the property of the Homalco First Nation in Campbell River.
Q: Why don’t the Tlowitsis live in your traditional territory?
We have a defined traditional territory north of Johnstone Strait, with 11 reserves scattered throughout the region. However, none of our current reserves are large enough to support a new community, nor access to basic services. Our reserves are located over 350 km from the nearest service centre to which we have year-round road access. There are no amenities, schools, doctors or medical services or employment opportunities on or near these reserves. There is no electricity or potable water available on a majority of our reserves.
What’s more, the cost of development on one of our current reserves would be prohibitive, as they are only accessible by water or air with the exception of one, which is on a flood plain.
Q: Why do you want to live on York Road? Why do you want to live at this specific property?
First and foremost, it’s a beautiful property that’s suitable for residential development and recreational opportunities for our people. There’s enough land to accommodate future community growth, while ensuring most of the property remains in its natural state for the benefit of our community and the local environment.
The property also offers our members convenient access to Campbell River, where many of our members currently live and work. There is a bus stop nearby for those members, including elders, who don’t have a vehicle, and is close to shopping and schools.
Q: Why do the Tlowitsis want to convert the property to reserve status?
The intent is that the reserve lands would become Tlowitsis’ treaty settlement lands, subject to the successful negotiation of a Final Agreement in the tripartite (Canada, BC and Tlowitsis) BC Treaty Process.
Q: Why is it important for the Tlowitsis to build a new home for your people?
Our people feel an emptiness that comes from not having a place to call home. Families have been separated from each other for over 50 years. For us, this land represents hope and a place to call home. In fact, as part of the community visioning process, our Elders gave the lands a name: Nenakwas (“A place to come home to”).
The acquisition and development of this land is a fundamental priority in re-establishing a viable, healthy Tlowitsis community that will provide opportunities, security and belonging for our members – a cohesive community that we have been without for far too long. The wish of the Tlowitsis people is simple: to live in harmony with our environment and our neighbours.
Q: Do you expect all of your members to move to York Road in the future?
No. The majority of our members live in Campbell River, Victoria and Metro Vancouver, and we also have a number of members living in other communities across Canada. We do not expect our entire membership to move home. We estimate that between 100 and 150 of our members will choose to live here over the next 10 to 20 years.
Land Purchase and Additions to Reserve (ATR)
Q: When did you make an offer to purchase this land?
The York Road parcels are fee simple lands that are being purchased through a land transaction between a willing seller, TimberWest, and willing buyer, the Tlowitsis First Nation. We have a long working relationship with TimberWest, and in 2011, we began discussing the potential purchase of the York Road lands. The negotiations were covered by a non-disclosure agreement that prevented both parties from discussing the proposed purchase publicly until the Purchase Agreement was signed on July 4, 2015.
Q: How is the land being paid for?
The Tlowitsis First Nation has its own revenue through our fishery and forestry businesses, and that revenue is being used to purchase this property. There is no government cash contribution to the purchase price.
Q: You are currently in treaty negotiations with the BC and federal governments. Will this reserve become part of your treaty settlement?
The intent is that the reserve lands would become treaty settlement lands, subject to the successful negotiation of a Final Agreement in the tripartite (Canada, BC and Tlowitsis) BC Treaty Process. These lands will be unique and we will have ownership and rights to the land, but we do not claim inherent title to the land.
Q: When will the Tlowitsis know if the ATR is approved?
This is a question for Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada. We understand that a decision on Tlowitsis’ ATR proposal will be made after all the requirements stipulated in the federal policy have been met. Tlowitsis hopes for approval of its ATR proposal before the end of 2017.
Q: Does the Strathcona Regional District have the authority to approve or reject the ATR?
No, the regional district does not have a veto in the decision to approve or reject this ATR. However, input from local governments is one of the many factors taken into consideration for the approval.
Environment and Recreation
Q: Have you completed an environmental assessment on the property?
Yes. A Phase I Environmental Site Assessment (ESA) Report was completed in February 2013 by SLR Consulting and reviewed by INAC environmental officials. Based on the results of the Phase I ESA, no areas of potential environmental concern were identified for the site. No further environmental investigation was recommended in 2013.
Since then, INAC has decided to conduct an additional environmental review to validate the Phase I ESA findings and to ensure that no significant environmental change has occurred on the site. ESAs are stale-dated after five years; therefore, INAC is conducting an additional review to confirm that no significant change has occurred on the site. This additional site visit and environmental condition update is expected to be completed early summer 2017.
Q: Will the Tlowitsis be hunting on this land?
No. While this area is classified as rural, it is within a residential zone, and discharging of firearms in this area is prohibited. Public safety is very important to us.
Hunting would not be done in the area. We have our traditional territory, which provides all the wildlife for our member hunters to use.
Q: People have been using this land for recreational pursuits like hiking and biking. Will the Tlowitsis allow people to continue to use the land for this purpose?
The land is private property, and any decisions about future land use would need to be made by our members.
Q: What are the Tlowitsis’ development plans for the property?
The Tlowitsis people want to live in a healthy environment, in a place that’s close to work and schools for our children, and to dream as other people do. Our hope is for a sustainable community that provides housing, an administrative office, a day school, a Council hall, and a recreational and sports area.
The York Road property consists of approximately 630 acres, which is roughly the total area of downtown Campbell River. Our concept is to develop 20 to 30 acres (three to five per cent of the total acreage) to establish a housing community of 75 homes over the next 30 years. Our long-term vision for development of the property three to five of the total landmass of the proposed Reserve. Most residents living in the surrounding area would not be able to see the development from York Road.
Any community plans would be developed with the support of INAC, once the lands have become reserve. INAC provides funding to First Nation communities for the development of a land use plan, for which the Tlowitsis would be eligible.
Q: How did the Tlowitsis come up with this vision and concept for the property?
Our First Nation’s membership has been actively participating in this process. They have participated in the visioning and planning, and have communicated to our Council what they want to see for their future and the future for their children: a clean, green and sustainable community.
To develop this vision of our community, we held a series of two-day workshops between August 2012 and July 2014. Approximately 10 workshops were held; all focused on the York Road proposal and related community capacity building.
Our members have told us they would like to have community gardens for vegetables and fruit trees, and a place where they can learn their culture, history and language from their own people, and in particular, from the few Elders we have left. The Tlowitsis people want to live in a healthy environment, to live close to work and schools for their children, and to dream as other people do.
Q: Have The Tlowitsis completed a formal development plan for the property?
No. In May 2015, we developed a schematic (or concept) plan based on our community visioning process. Some of the concept illustrations created from that process are available to view on our website. However, formal planning and design for the community has not yet begun.
The first step in the process is to complete our application for the ATR. If the ATR proposal is approved, we would begin a formal planning process and finalize specific infrastructure plans for the property. It is important to note that most of our infrastructure projects would have to be reviewed by INAC, including engineering plans for capital projects, water, sewer, surface water control, etc.
Q: Who will pay for construction of homes and infrastructure on the property?
Funding and financing would come from a number of sources, including our own revenue. We would apply for housing subsidies for some of our members, while other members would seek their own financing for home construction. We may also apply for community housing programs for our elderly members.
The Tlowitsis would also apply for infrastructure as well as operation and maintenance funding through INAC.
Q: Are the Tlowitsis in discussions with the Strathcona Regional District (SRD) and the City of Campbell River regarding the provision of municipal services (e.g. water, sewage and emergency services) ?
We are currently exploring options with both the SRD and the City, and discussions are ongoing. We can share some details on the options under consideration.
The Strathcona Regional District, the City of Campbell River, and the Tlowitsis are working together on water servicing issues for the proposed reserve. The Tlowitsis conducted feasibility studies for water systems, which concluded that a direct water connection from the City of Campbell River’s main pipeline would be the most sustainable approach.
In a letter addressed to Tlowitsis dated January 23, 2017, the City of Campbell River confirmed its willingness in principle to provide bulk potable water to the new Tlowitsis community, subject to the Strathcona Regional District’s consent. The plan is to conclude a Municipal Type Service Agreement (MTSA) between Tlowitsis and the City of Campbell River.
There is a possibility of extending Tlowitsis’ water system to Electoral Area D residents to provide Electoral Area D households with a consistent gravity‐fed water supply, should this option be attractive for all parties.
Tlowitsis would be eligible for Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada infrastructure funding for the implementation of its water system once the lands become reserve.
Tlowitsis’ intention is to construct and operate a self-contained sewage system wherein a mechanical water treatment system would remove biomass and water would be returned to the aquifer. The Tlowitsis is waiting for the final engineering report.
An MTSA would have to be negotiated with the City of Campbell River to safely and properly discard the biomass using the City’s treatment plant facilities.
Public safety, law enforcement and fire protection
With respect to public safety, law enforcement and fire, the Tlowitsis would have another MTSA for public safety with Campbell River, for the RCMP to provide us with policing services and law enforcement. Fire protection would need to be negotiated with the Oyster River Volunteer Fire Department.
Q: When would you begin construction?
We have not set a date yet, and could only commence following approval of the ATR. We will update our website with additional information when it becomes available.
Q: Who would provide other community services (e.g. electricity, education, health care, garbage collection, etc.)?
Electricity would be provided by BC Hydro. Telephone, cable and internet to be provided by private service providers, as would garbage collection. We expect these services to be provided off site at existing facilities.
Q: Would you consider harmonization of other area bylaws (like animal control, street lighting, noise, etc.)?
We would be pleased to discuss these issues with the SRD, once our formal land use planning takes place.
Q: Where would the road access for the Tlowitsis community be? What about public transit?
Road access would be directly from York Road. Our initial schematic plan showed other options as well; however, these other options would create too much traffic in the residential streets.
It is our intention to negotiate with Campbell River Regional Transit to extend their bus route once the community has the ridership. In the interim, the Tlowitsis would have to provide van services, and we may need to work with the SRD and the provincial Ministry of Transportation to enhance the York Road and old Island Highway interchange.
Q: How many houses do you plan to build on the property? When would they be built?
We are estimating that we would build between 75 and 100 homes on the property in the coming years. However, construction of this many homes is expected to take anywhere from 10 to 30 years, depending on the housing needs of our members.
Q: What kind of economic development and job creation plans do you have?
While we have no firm plans at this early stage, economic opportunities pursued along York Road could include cottage industries, artisans or small shops. We plan to manage some of the timber on the property, as well.
Q: Do you have plans for a light industrial park or a mobile home park on the property? What about commercial or industrial development – what are your plans?
Some concerns have been raised about the possibility of a light industrial park at the York Road site. A light industrial park and the possibility of an RV park (not a mobile home park) were raised as concept ideas during our Nation’s visioning process. However, there are no plans to pursue either of these economic development ideas at this time. The land would be managed for community development in the near future.
Communication with the community
Q: What have the Tlowitsis, the SRD, and the City of Campbell River accomplished so far, in terms of consultation?
Since 2014, the Tlowitsis, with the support from INAC, SRD, and the City of Campbell River have been meeting on an ongoing basis to discuss the potential purchase of land in Electoral Area D.
Engagement efforts Tlowitsis has made include a presentation to City Council on November 27, 2015, numerous meetings with the Regional Director for Electoral Area D and other district representatives, and a facilitated Community to Community forum held on January 13, 2017 to discuss the reserve creation process, involving INAC and the members of the SRD Board.
On April 21, 2017 an ad hoc sub-committee was struck by the SRD and the City of Campbell River, together with Tlowitsis and technical support from INAC officials, to develop an engagement approach, including a communications plan and Q and A to be posted on the SRD’s website, with an additional pamphlet mail-out to all Electoral Area D households.
Q: Will the Tlowitsis be sharing information about your development plans with York Road and other Area D residents?
The Tlowitsis and the SRD, along with INAC, have agreed to work together on a collaborative communications plan for keeping local residents and Tlowitsis members informed as plans progress. We look forward to working with the SRD on communications on an ongoing basis.