A ceremony at the Tsawout gymnasium on Friday morning saw the return of 10 acres (four hectares) of land back to the five WSANEC First Nations.
“The province of British Columbia, the government of Canada and the WSANEC leaders are pleased to gather to commemorate the final settlement of (this) specific claim dating back to 1962,” said Pauquachin Chief Bruce Underwood.
“This historic settlement and return of the land has been a critical part of our discussions for the betterment for future generations.”
In 1962, the parcel of land was mistakenly removed from the Goldstream First Nation during a land surveying error. The five Saanich First Nations, Pauquachin, Tsartlip, Tseycum, Tsawout and Malahat, have been working with the provincial and federal governments lobbying for the return of the land, something which was marked by the ceremony last Friday.
“This historic settlement shows that claim negotiations can deliver results with willing partners,” said Federal Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Minister Bernard Valcourt, in a press release. Valcourt was unable to attend Friday’s ceremony and was represented by Regional Director General of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, Eric Magnuson.
Also present at Friday’s ceremony were the chiefs from all five nations, elders and government officials including Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation Minister Ida Chong and MLA Murray Coell.
“As a long time resident of this region and as a local MLA, I take great pride in the return of this land to the Saanich First Nations,” said Chong.
“This agreement is a positive achievement for Saanich First Nations, Canada and the province based on a foundation of respect and trust.”
Along with the land, the five WSANEC First Nations were awarded $877,375 in loss of use compensation.
“Our leaders are pleased the wrongdoings of the mis-survey to our nations’ land is now being corrected,” said Underwood.
“It is important we honour our relatives that have walked the land before us and those that walk the land after we’re gone.”