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Regional district reviews agreements with first nation

Report on taxation and services stimulates conjecture about relationships after treaty

Powell River Regional District directors are in a quandary about shared agreements with Tla’amin (Sliammon) Nation.

At the regional district’s committee of the whole meeting, mid-November, directors were presented with a report titled: First Nation Property Tax, Services and Economic Development in British Columbia, which had been presented to First Nations Tax Commission and Union of BC Municipalities.

The report states that local governments will have an opportunity to provide feedback on this report that explores the evolution of First Nation taxation, the development of local government service agreements and related legislative developments.

Colin Palmer, board chair and Electoral Area C director, noted there were several pages in the report that apply to the regional district. He said the regional district was not mentioned in the appendix but there are agreements in place with Tla’amin. He said he thought at some future point, the regional district could use the pages of the report that apply locally to initiate discussion with Tla’amin and City of Powell River when they hold one of the periodic meetings involving the three levels of government.

Palmer said there has been discussion about the non-first nations residents of Klahanie Drive who pay taxes to Tla’amin as Klahanie Drive is located within the Tla’amin community. He said the residents used to vote in the regional district elections but don’t now.

“They are not quite sure how they have representation on the band,” he said.

Patrick Brabazon, Electoral Area A director, said there is currently no vote for these residents. “I call them orphans,” he said. “They are not going to vote for the Tla’amin government and they are not going to get to vote for the regional government. They are in limbo.”

Palmer said he has forgotten what agreements exist with Tla’amin for shared services, such as the hospital, the library, for fire services. “I haven’t seen those agreements for a long time,” he said.

Brabazon said he believed there was a mutual aid agreement with the Tla’amin fire service. The hospital is a whole different situation, he said, because in April 2016, when Tla’amin becomes self-governing, the First Nation will have representation on the regional hospital board.

“The reason I didn’t get too concerned about this document is we are dealing with a treaty first nation, which is quite different from what we are talking about with the rest of the first nations,” Brabazon said. “This would have applied to our relationship with Tla’amin last year, but it won’t next year, sort of thing.”

Palmer said the board should understand what the agreements are at the moment so that when Tla’amin becomes a treaty first nation, everyone will better understand what is going to happen in the future. Palmer asked if some of the arrangements would have to be negotiated.

“With the library, there is an assumption on my part that they will be making their own arrangements, not through us anymore,” said Brabazon.

Palmer asked, when the treaty takes effect, “do we assume things carry on or do we have to pin it all again?”

Brabazon asked regional district staff to come up with all of the agreements that the regional district is associated with and then the directors can try to figure out where they are going from there.

Al Radke, regional district chief administrative officer, said the regional district currently has a service agreement with the first nation.

“I’m led to believe through my counterpart in Sliammon that everything is status quo right now and come that particular day [when the treaty takes effect] they will be a new entity,” Radke said. “Because of that, we will be dealing with someone new, but as far as he and I are concerned right now, it is just a matter of changing the nameplates. There is no renegotiation.”

Radke said there is a base document in the service agreement and the only thing that will be done is updating it as to prices, extensions, deletions, et cetera.

“We won’t have to start at ground zero and try to rework that whole agreement,” he said.