It is not clear yet how a local First Nation plans to use the former Woodwynn Farms site, but it could take years to be added to the existing reserve should that be the choice.
Tsartlip First Nation Chief Don Tom said earlier this month that the leadership of the nation will now consult its more than 1,000 members about best possible uses for the former Woodwynn Farm property after assuming possession on Dec. 16.
Tom said his nation is excited to acquire the 78-hectare property because it will help the nation expand its land base. The land, once used by the Tsartlip First Nation for hunting, farming and traditional practices, lies next to the nation’s only reserve. With more than 1,000 members, the community has run out of space to fulfill housing, recreational and cultural needs.
Tsartlip First Nation now owns the land as ordinary private property within the Agricultural Land Reserve after having purchased the farm from BC Housing through a $7.77-million grant from the provincial government.
“If they decide in future to add the property to their reserve, there is a federal process they would go through to do that,” said Tania Venn, communications manager with the Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation. Venn said the Tsartlip First Nation’s private purchase of the property from BC Housing did not require consultation with the federal government.
Additions to reserves can take place under three conditions: legal obligations and agreements; tribunal decisions; and community additions, when a First Nation with an existing reserve needs additional reserve land for uses that include the accommodation of community growth and the protection of culturally significant sites.
Additions can be adjacent or apart from reserves, with additions both possible in rural or urban settings.
A 2005 report by the Auditor General of Canada found the average addition process (prior to recent legislative changes in 2018 under the Addition of Lands to Reserves and Reserve Creation Act) took five to seven years.
Other high-profile additions during the past decade elsewhere in British Columbia (be it by size or location) have taken place in Greater Vancouver (Musqueam), West Kelowna (West Bank First Nation) and northern British Columbia including the Lax Kw’alaams First Nation.
BC Housing purchased the site in July 2018 and has leased it to a local farmer, who is actively farming the property. That lease has been extended to September 2021.
The Peninsula News Review reached out multiple times to the Tsartlip First Nation for comment, but did not receive a response.
Martin Collins, the director of policy and planning for the Agricultural Land Commission, said the commission has no authority over additions to reserves.
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