The Heiltsuk First Nation and the Government of Canada reached a reconciliation agreement on Thursday worth nearly $37 million.
The $36.96 milllion Haíɫcístut [the Heiltsuk word meaning: “to turn things around and make things right again”] Incremental House Post Agreement is part of a three-year agreement which will be invested into four priority house posts [priority areas of investment].
“This is a pretty big milestone for us. We had put forward in the vision — an articulation of how we see ourselves moving forward. It’s part of a process of developing and building upon our relationship to turn something around and make it right again,” Chief Councillor Marilyn Slett of the Heiltsuk Nation said.
Slett said the funds will go toward self-government; housing and infrastructure, economic development and language revitalization such as developing phone apps and immersing their language in nursery schools.
Additional funding will be provided by Fisheries and Oceans Canada toward the priority of fisheries management. These investments include: increased training, enforcement authority and monitoring; joint management of crab and salmon fisheries sectors in the Heiltsuk territory; increased capacity at the Bella Bella Fish Plant; increased allocation of quota and licences for the Heiltsuk Nation; additional salmon hatchery opportunities; and additional shellfish aquaculture opportunities.
“This is a historic day and an example for all of Canada. They did such great work to articulate their vision. Turn something around and make it right again, even using their language they articulated their vision. It was so moving to have hereditary chiefs, all their drummers, women singing and a real ceremony that marked a very important day,” Carolyn Bennett, minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, said.
Bennett said this is one step forward in the path out from under the Indian Act and described the deal as a legally-binding agreement that allows the Heiltsuk to feel more secure.
Bennett said the next step will be to develop an agreement with Canada, B.C., and the Heiltsuk Nation to keep moving as partners until they become a fully self-governing nation.
Jenna Cocullo | Journalist
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