WATCH: Vancouver Island’s largest First Nation wants to take back control of its land. Cowichan Tribes members will be voting on transferring control from Ottawa to the band. If successful, the band says it would lead to new economic opportunities. Kendall Hanson reports.
Cowichan Tribes runs numerous successful businesses, and they want to create even more economic opportunities but there is an obstacle in their way.
They now require federal government approval for land use decisions.
That will change if the band introduces a Land Code, a new legal way for first nations to take control of their property.
“When we look at taking over our own jurisdiction, our own land, we no longer have to see Indian Affairs for permission for us to do anything on our land,” said William (Chip) Seymour, Cowichan Tribes Chief.
Twelve Vancouver Island First Nations, including Ladysmith’s, have already been through this process.
The Stz’uminus is using their Land Code to help build a new development at Oyster Bay.
“Clearly they’ve indicated that the Land code has certainly bolstered their development opportunities and I think they’ve taken advantage of it,” said Robert Louie, Chair of the First Nations Lands Advisory Board.
Seymour says if their land code is approved by the membership, several new projects will be developed including one of the biggest projects they’re working on, a waste to energy plant.
“We’ve started working with Indian Affairs on it but the reality is that if we get Land Code, that can be approved in three months through Cowichan Tribes,” said Seymour.
Six years ago a proposed waste to energy plant in Nanaimo proved controversial. City council voted it down but in the Cowichan Valley residents seem open to the Cowichan Tribes’ plan.
“I think it’s a great idea. Good for the environment. Good for the economy also,” said Holly Gilbertson, a Cowichan Valley resident
“Good on anyone who wants to control waste management but where does the waste go eventually?” said Colin Sands, also a Cowichan Valley resident.
Band members will get to vote on adopting the Cowichan Tribes Land Code in mid-September.