Jonathan Hayward/CPChief Marilyn Slett pauses for a moment during a news conference in Vancouver, Wednesday, Oct. 10. The news conference was to announce the suing of Kirby Corporation by the Heiltsuk government regarding the sinking of an American-owened tug named Nathan E. Stewart after it ran aground Oct. 13, 2016. Marilyn Slett, chief of the Heiltsuk Nation at a news conference in Vancouver. (Jonathan Hayward/CP)

Feds and Heilstuk First Nation sign $37M reconciliation agreement

“One step forward in the path out from under the Indian Act,” said Minister Bennett

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.

READ MORE: “Does Kirby care?” Heiltsuk Nation using geo-targeted ads in Houston, Texas for justice

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.

READ MORE: Feds and B.C. First Nations agree to better access to commercial fishing

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 Heilstuk 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.

READ MORE: Tahltan make largest First Nation clean energy investment in B.C. history


Jenna Cocullo | Journalist
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