The Katzie First Nation and City of Pitt Meadows are working on a closer relationship, as the band moves closer to self governance.
Relations between the band office and city hall have eroded in recent years, says Susan Miller, in her second year as band chief.
The Katzie are considering a settlement offer from the Canadian government, moving towards independence, and Miller said good relations with both Pitt Meadows and Maple Ridge are important.
The band and Pitt Meadows were one of six pairs chosen, from among 55 applying municipality/band pairs across Canada, to take part in the new First Nations/Municipal Community Infrastructure Partnership Program. That program is run by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.
“We were already showing a real spirit of cooperation,” Kate Zanon, the city’s acting director of operations and development services, said of why their application was successful. “We were equally excited and amicable.”
The city already supplies Katzie with three services – sewer, water and fire protection – and that could be expanded, said Zanon.
These services have been provided without formal servicing agreements since 2010, when the last three-year agreement expired. Progress on the new agreements has stalled. Both parties want written agreements, and will explore other potential services that Pitt Meadows could offer the band.
“We’re really excited about it,” Miller said of the CIPP process. “We get to do some growing together in the coming years.”
There will be a day-long workshop in March, facilitated by CIPP staff, followed by another in the late fall. These are strategic planning and relationship building workshops. There will also be between four and six webinars for the groups over the next year. They will have access to 1,300 service agreements to use as reference material, and get a “toolkit” of case studies and templates of service agreements.
Miller explained that a lot is happening with the band. It will be opening a new health and community centre in the spring, and will investigate new townhouses for band members. The band will also be looking at business opportunities to benefit members.
There are six stages to treaty negotiation, and the Katzie is at the end of stage four – negotiation of an agreement in principle. In September the band received a land and cash offer from the federal government, and now have two years to accept or reject the offer.
Miller would not comment on the terms of the deal, saying it remains confidential, but acceptance would require a referendum by the band members.
The fifth and sixth stages are final negotiations of the treaty, followed by implementation of the agreement.
Pitt Meadows Mayor John Becker said Miller takes the job of Katzie chief at a key time.
“She’s got a lot of heavy lifting to do – it makes my job look like a walk in the park,” said Becker. “She’s having to create a municipality, or a level of government, that really doesn’t exist.”