Province, Feds Make Treaty Offer

Published Date: 2009/2/10 15:30:00
Article ID : 6119
Version 1.00.01

By Keven Drews

TOFINO — The provincial and federal governments have made an official land-and-cash treaty offer to a Clayoquot Sound First Nation.

Mark Lofthouse, chief negotiator for the Ministry of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation, told Tofino council Tuesday morning the provincial and federal government would offer the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation a significant amount of cash and more than 4,200 hectares of land that very afternoon.

He declined to give further details because the Tla-o-qui-aht had yet to see the offer.

“We planned on making it two or three months from now, but with all the various issues around the provincial election that are coming up…we didn’t want the land and cash offer to get to close to the election,” said Lofthouse. “So we elected to do it sooner.”

Lofthouse said the government is still negotiating some “tricky issues.”

If all goes well, he added, an agreement in principle could be in place by the end of the year and a final agreement could be in place in two years.

The Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation currently maintains two communities around Tofino.

Opitsaht is located on Meares Island, across from Tofino.

Esowista is located south of town, inside Pacific Rim National Park Reserve.

This past November, the provincial government and Tla-o-qui-aht inked a historic incremental treaty deal.

The agreement will give the Tla-o-qui-aht five district lots, totalling 63 hectares, of provincially owned Crown land, located within the District of Tofino’s boundaries, and $600,000.

The incremental treaty lands are separate from other treaty lands.

The provincial government has already handed over $100,000.

Lofthouse said the first lot, District Lot 124, could be transferred this March.

He said there’s still more work to do.

“This is an initial offer and I don’t expect there will be thunderous applause at the end of our presentations this afternoon,” said Lofthouse. “We are a long way from concluding treaties on this but we are making some fairly significant progress.”

Coun. Michael Tilitzky asked Lofthouse who was representing Tofino’s interests at the treaty table – considering five lots are within the municipality’s boundaries.

“I’m certainly very cognizant of your interests around those given parcels that are right in the municipal boundaries,” said Lofthouse.

“You’ve got to trust me on that one.”