Snuneymuxw, province sign housing memorandum

The Snuneymuxw First Nation (SFN) and the Province, through BC Housing, are partnering to build and operate new culturally appropriate housing for Snuneymuxw peoples, particularly women and children, Elders and people experiencing homelessness in the community. 

"Access to basic and equitable housing has, for centuries, been denied to the Snuneymuxw People due to oppressive colonial policies and legislative acts designed to create substandard housing for Indigenous peoples," said Mike Wyse, Chief, Snuneymuxw First Nation. "With this step forward, by signing this memorandum of understanding, we begin to deconstruct these systemic and racist approaches, and begin to redesign an approach that unlocks overdue access to housing for Snuneymuxw People and respects our way of life. Together we can build community wellness and community healing. I want to acknowledge the Province of British Columbia for having an open heart and being mindful of a new way of walking forward together, promoting shared prosperity and harmony in our region."

BC Housing and the SFN have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to create new, affordable housing that may include design and programming features, such as cultural support services and spaces for ceremonies and community gatherings, that facilitate and encourage a sense of tradition, well-being and belonging.

"Our government is committed to exploring new and creative avenues to address the lack of adequate housing options for Indigenous peoples in B.C.," said Sheila Malcolmson, MLA for Nanaimo, on behalf of David Eby, Attorney General and Minister Responsible for Housing. "In 2018, we became the first province in Canada to invest in Indigenous housing on reserve, a federal jurisdiction. Now, we're partnering with the Snuneymuxw First Nation so that we can deepen our understanding and develop culturally appropriate housing that meets the needs of the community."

Through the MOU, the two parties will also work together toward a set of mutual goals, including:

* exploring and promoting opportunities to increase First Nations involvement in construction-related training and apprenticeships;

* developing and implementing training programs and support networks for First Nations housing professionals in areas such as development, asset management and ongoing operations;

* collaborating on project planning, development, community forums and engagement activities and including Elders in various discussions so that land, language, culture and people are considered in all development decisions;

* embracing a holistic view of housing that supports and nurtures community while emphasizing environmental sustainability and the natural environment; and

* dealing effectively with homelessness within the SFN territory.

This is the first MOU that BC Housing has entered with a First Nation that is specifically aimed at developing culturally appropriate housing. It is hoped this MOU will be a model for similar agreements with other First Nations in B.C.

B.C. Electoral map could see major changes

MLA John Rustad

Electoral boundary changes could add up to six new ridings while eliminating the protection of rural ridings, says Nechako Lakes MLA John Rustad.

Without going through the details of the bill, there are some major aspects to be considered.

B.C. has about 5.3 million people and increasing MLAs to 93 from 87 means the average riding population should be about 57,000.

From 100 Mile House north, there are about 340,000 people. At 57,000 average population, the north could lose as many as four of its 10 seats.

The electoral boundary commission can still use the "very special circumstances" (a riding can be more than the standard 25 per cent deviation from the average) but they will likely only use that for two or three ridings at most.

The results will likely be a reduction in northern representation by two or three seats and likely one from the Kootenays, says Rustad.

Combined with the added seats, the balance of electoral representation in B.C. will forever be changed as the new seats and the reduced seats will be located in the Lower Mainland, he adds.

Rustad says British Columbians can influence this process by attending hearings throughout the province. Attend these meetings. He encourages voters to voice their perspective by sending emails and letters to the commission. They can also lobby local governments and regional district representatives.

The electoral boundary commission must be appointed by this fall and have its work completed at least one year before the next provincial election.