Pitt Meadows and Katzie First Nation are hailing the signing of a “historic agreement” and “the start of a new shared history.”
The announcement was of a renewed agreement for Pitt Meadows providing the Katzie with water, sewer and fire protection services. But local politicians said the new relationship goes much deeper than that.
Katzie Chief Susan Miller explained such an agreement could be negotiated between lawyers and staff members, with the politicians signing the completed document. This time, though, the politicians got involved.
“We worked together for 18 months on an almost monthly basis,” said Miller. “It created an understanding of how each organization operates.”
She said Pitt Meadows Mayor John Becker attended a meeting of the Katzie council, which was a first. She said the council can deal with issues as complex as land transfers under treaty agreements, to “a dog bit my kid,” and Becker saw how the Katzie band office handles it.
In the past, she said Katzie members have been invited to take part in official ceremonies, but called it “tokenism.”
“There was no relationship, when it came to being partners. And that has definitely changed.”
Miller said that new relationship will be important in the future as the Katzie band explores development on its land, for either residential or industrial purposes.
Becker called the relationship before this agreement “two solitudes,” and said that characterization fit as far back as his first involvement in 2002, and likely before that.
The two governments started with the intention of replacing long-expired service agreements. In 2014, both communities applied to take part in the Federation of Canadian Municipalities First Nations – Municipal Community Infrastructure Partnership Program. Pitt Meadows and Katzie were one of only six pairs selected for participation out of 50 applicants.
According to FCM, relationships between first nations and municipalities are often marked by tension and mistrust. As a result, communities lose opportunities to share resources, reduce costs, and generate positive social and economic outcomes.
Becker said that early in the process, Pitt Meadows and Katzie united in their opposition to a proposed new quarry.
“We had the Sheridan Hill thing, which really solidified the process,” said Becker.
He clarified that the services are not provided to Katzie at a profit, and most of the necessary infrastructure was already in place.
“As mayor, one of my utmost priorities is to bring Katzie First Nation back into mainstream consciousness in our community so that the richness of its culture can be embraced and celebrated by the entire community,” said Becker.
“We entered the room as neighbors and left as friends.”
Katzie and the Pitt Meadows were recognized both provincially and federally for their working relationship. Miller and Becker were in Ottawa last week sharing their perspectives and experiences at the annual Federation of Canadian Municipalities Sustainable Communities conference.