The federal land Royal Roads University occupies could soon be returned to the Songhees and Esquimalt First Nations as Treaty negotiations continue.
Currently, the university leases 60 hectares of land from the Department of National Defence (DND) for $1 per year in exchange for maintaining the entire 230 hectares of Hatley Park.
In 2016 DND deemed the land a surplus of its needs. This move opened the door for the federal and provincial governments, as well as the Songhees, Esquimalt Nations and other Indigenous groups, to discuss the future of the land and Treaty negotiations.
Jackie Albany, with Songhees First Nation, said this land is very important to the Nation’s people.
“There are archaeological sites down towards the boathouse and along the shorelines,” Albany explained.
She said the archaeological sites include bones and artifacts, adding that having some control over them means a lot.
“That’s our identity, that’s our history, that’s our heritage,” Albany said.
She told CHEK News Treaty negotiations have been ongoing for 28 years, but the recent progression is giving the Nations hope that they are closer to the federal government making a land declaration.
That would push the Treaty to a vote from the membership of each Nation, and if passed, an approval of Treaty legislation.
“It’s been a very long process,” Albany added.
Royal Roads University said a Treaty land declaration could mean changes for the school.
The university said it signed framework agreements with the Songhees Nation in May 2018, and Esquimalt Nation in June 2019, to define parameters in order to work together in the spirit of collaboration and ensure the University’s continued and successful operation.
In a statement it said: “We are aware that the footprint of the Royal Roads campus may change as part of the Treaty negotiation process and we have a plan to manage this change while continuing to deliver the high-quality education we’re known for.”
It added it will continue to be responsible and sustainably-focused stewards of the campus grounds.
“We are open to keeping Royal Roads in the picture, so there are no plans yet,” Albany said.
She added those details are a part of the Treaty negotiation.
The federal government and university didn’t give CHEK News a timeline of when a land declaration will be made, but the university said it will share any news and announcements when they become available.
This is one of five Treaty negations currently happening across Vancouver Island.
The Te’mexw Treaty Association is actively negotiating Treaties with the Malahat, Songhees, Sc’ianew, Snaw-naw-as and T’Sou-ke Nations and helping them regain ownership of land across the Mid and South Island.
The association is also partnering with the provincial and federal governments to host open houses explaining what Treaties are and the process of implementing one in open houses.
Throughout March open houses will take place across the Greater Victoria region, Shawnigan Lake and Nanoose Bay.
Information on Treaties and the open houses can be found on the B.C. government’s website.
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