Khelsilem (Dustin Rivers), right, elected councillor and spokesperson for Squamish Nation, embraces Tsleil-Waututh Nation councillor Charlene Aleck in celebration before First Nations leaders respond to a Federal Court of Appeal ruling on the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion, during a news conference in Vancouver on August 30, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

B.C. VIEWS: An engine that hums right along

First Nations are leading a new surge of investment in B.C.

FRANK BUCHOLTZ

The Canadian economy seems strong, but there are many signs pointing to underlying weakness. Among these are minimal research and development spending, lagging productivity when compared to other nations, and shrinking business investment.

As B.C. residents know only too well, much economic activity in recent years has been related to real estate. This has come at the expense of other aspects of economic growth. While real estate sales and residential construction activity are an important component of the economy, they have been disproportionately larger than usual.

One aspect of the economy that is growing and has great potential in B.C. is aboriginal business activity. A Maclean’s article by JP Gladu, president and CEO of the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business, stated that indigenous business activity contributed over $31 billion to Canada’s GDP in 2016, and continues to grow.

READ MORE: Signs of real estate innovation after Supreme Court decision opens housing data

We experienced the hum of this economic engine firsthand during a recent stay at a B.C. destination that was purchased in 2015 by the Ktunaxa people – the Lower Kootenay First Nation. Ainsworth Hot Springs resort is located in the small town of the same name about half an hour’s drive east of Nelson, on the west shore of Kootenay Lake.

The hot springs have been a place of healing and refreshment for the Ktunaxa people for many generations. Known to them as Nupika Wu’u (Spirit Waters), the springs are a place where warriors came to refresh after defending their territory. Others suffering from ailments such as arthritis could begin to feel better.

READ MORE: Lower Kootenay Band purchasing Ainsworth Hot Springs Resort

When prospectors of European descent swarmed over the area in the 1880s in search of silver, lead and gold, they too discovered the hot springs. Since that time, people of all backgrounds have made their way to what was once a fairly inaccessible spot in order to experience some of the same refreshment.

The resort has a distinct aboriginal theme, from the artwork and decor in hotel rooms to the aboriginal-themed menu in the Ktunaxa Grill. The caves where hot water bubbles up and the pools are incredibly refreshing and peaceful.

Similar economic activity involving B.C. First Nations has been growing in volume and variety for the past 30 years. It has become much more significant as a result of treaties signed with the Nisga’a people in the late 1990s and more recently, with the Tsawwassen First Nation. The latter is B.C.’s first modern treaty with a First Nation in an urban setting, and has led to development of a massive shopping mall, an Amazon warehouse and a number of real estate projects. Future economic activity in conjunction with the Port of Vancouver is also planned.

Planned LNG developments in Kitimat and Squamish have extensive involvements with First Nations and are seen by leaders as permanent solutions to creating jobs and opportunities for their band members.

READ MORE: Squamish Nation-led housing project in Vancouver to double in size

These are just a few of the significant economic steps that First Nations have taken. The recent passage of Bill 41 in the B.C. Legislature, which will lead to present and future policies and laws being written or revised to ensure aboriginal rights are respected, is likely to lead to much more activity in the future.

All B.C. residents will benefit from economic activity which values and builds upon the unique place aboriginal people have in our society.

Frank Bucholtz is a columnist and former editor with Black Press Media. Email him at frank.bucholtz@blackpress.ca

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

West Shore RCMP, ICBC target speeders and aggressive drivers

Hotspots include Sooke Road, Veterans Memorial Parkway and Colwood Corners

Youth riding high after Sidney re-opens skate park

Skate park, tennis courts, volleyball court and multi-use court proved popular on the weekend

One person taken to hospital after crash on Elk Lake Drive

Emergency vehicles are blocked access to the area for about 30 minutes

Peninsula farm stands open for business with COVID-19 restrictions

Growers hopeful shoppers will support local farms

B.C. legislature coming back June 22 as COVID-19 emergency hits record

Pandemic restrictions now longer than 2017 wildfire emergency

POLL: Do you agree with the provincial government’s decision to increase the minimum wage?

B.C.’s lowest-paid workers will be getting a few more dollars to try… Continue reading

COVID-19: B.C. too dependent on foreign food production workers

New B.C. job site links unemployed with farm, seafood work

B.C. businesses ‘can’t shoulder burden’ of COVID-19 sick pay

Trudeau’s plan should be tied to federal emergency aid

RCMP remind public to leave dogs chilling at home on hot days

Dogsafe has designed a Dog in a Hot Car Responder Checklist

Another Asian giant ‘murder hornet’ found in Lower Mainland

This is the farthest east the invasive species has been found so far

B.C. girl left temporarily paralyzed by tick bite sparks warning from family

Mom says parents need to check their kids when they go camping

PHOTOS: Loved ones reunite at an oasis on closed U.S.-Canada border in Surrey

Officials closed the park in mid-March over coronavirus concerns

Feds delay national action plan for missing and murdered Indigenous women

Meanwhile, the pandemic has exacerbated the violence facing many Indigenous women and girls

Most Read