Ground-breaking deal signed Kwantlen First Nation excited about future of Forests and Range agreement



By Kristyl Clark
Times Reporter

Jun 04 2006

Kwantlen First Nation Chief Marilyn Gabriel invited Minister of Forests and Range Rich Coleman, along with several chiefs, elders and dignitaries, to bear witness to her signing of a ground-breaking document Wednesday.

The document outlines that the First Nation will receive $433,000 and access to 25,000 cubic metres of timber under the first Forests and Range Opportunities Agreement.

“I’m so thankful for all of the people who have made this happen today,” said Gabriel.

“This is a very exciting day for our people, a day that I want to be remembered forever. We want everyone to know the Kwantlen Nation is here and are willing to work with anyone.”

Gabriel said, with the agreement, they’ll be able to expand the Kwantlen First Nation’s participation in the forest sector, creating jobs and training opportunities for the First Nations.

The new Forests and Range Opportunities Agreement is based on the same principles as previous forests and range agreements, and formally acknowledges the new relationship between the B.C. government and First Nations.

“This is another step forward in government’s new relationship with First Nations,” said Coleman. “By working together, we’ve created a new agreement that entrenches the spirit of recognition and respect, and strives to make First Nations full partners in B.C.’s forest sector. I’m honoured to be signing the first agreement in Langley.”

Timber access under the five-year Kwantlen agreement will be shared between a woodlot licence and a non-replacable forest licence located in Maple Ridge, within the Fraser Timber Supply Area.

To date, the ministry of forests and range has signed agreements with 106 First Nations, providing access to 17 million cubic metres of timber and sharing more than $120.5 million in revenue.

Sto:lo Grand Chief Clarence Pennier travelled from Scowlitz to witness the signing ceremony. He expressed to Coleman and Gabriel that he was thrilled with the new agreement.

“It feels great to witness a template for other nations to follow.” said Pennier.

“I will remember this day forever because we know we have a great future ahead of us.”

The ceremony started with Paddle Song, which represents the journey that everyone takes in their lifetime.

“The journey that everyone in this room is on has led them here today,” said host Christopher Thomas, who is also a member of the First Nations from Mission.

Thomas pointed out the kerchief worn on his head and blanket wrapped around his chest, and explained their significance to the ceremony.

“The kerchief means that the First Nations will keep a good mind in their work out in the forest and the blanket covering my chest represents that we will hold it very close to our heart,” said Thomas.

At the end of the ceremony, everyone was treated to a traditional Aboriginal feast prepared by Kwantlen First Nation on their McMillan Island reserve.

The Kwantlen First Nation has 189 members on seven reserves in the Fraser Valley.