On Tuesday, West Kelowna Mayor Doug Findlater and members of council were able to raise issues of concern to the district at the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention in Vancouver.
Two key issues raised were the reconciliation process between the province and First Nation groups and consideration of mechanisms for forest fuel mitigation on public and private lands.
The mayor and councillors met with Mary Polak, minister of aboriginal relations and reconciliation, to speak about the district’s interest in ensuring that West Kelowna is able to effectively identify impacts on its residents or the services the municipality provides due to negotiations between the province and Westbank First Nation.
“We want to be sure that the province is aware of the complexities of existing and future servicing agreements between us and WFN, and that there is a need for provincial legislation or policy to guide us in this,” said Findlater.
According to Findlater, Polak assured the district that it would be kept informed regarding ongoing discussion on non-treaty matters and that a UBCM Memorandum of Understanding related to consultation with municipalities on non-treaty matters will be expanded.
“We discussed the need for a province-wide approach to service agreements between municipalities and First Nation groups.
“The province recognizes that it is difficult to enforce provincial regulations on First Nation land.
“That has all kinds of implications further to what we’ve been discussing regarding the land exchange between the ministry of transportation and infrastructure and Westbank First Nation involving lands in the Rose Valley area.”
Findlater also met with Steve Thomson, Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources, to discuss the district’s interest in securing Crown land for municipal purposes and obtaining support from the province for its forest fuel mitigation work and for support for large parcels of private lands that require forest fuel reduction.
“West Kelowna has experienced more than its share of forest fires in the past few years,” Findlater said. “We spoke with Minister Thomson about our interest in securing a government policy and funding formula to help not only West Kelowna, but so many other municipalities in B.C. that are facing the same issue.”