Steps have been initiated to possibly return a portion of Central Saanich to the Tsawout First Nation.
Restarting an idea that had begun, then stalled, under former Central Saanich Mayor Wayne Hunter in the late 1990s, early 200s, Councillor Niall Paltiel found support for his motion to have municipal staff research the steps necessary to gift Cordova Spit to the neighbouring First Nation.
The peice of land is held by the District of Central Saanich, made part of the municipality decades ago, when maps were drawn to delineate First Nations reserves. Paltiel noted the property there is divided into approximately 10 lots but the District has no plans to see it developed.
He said Central Saanich declared 2017 as the Year of Reconciliation and having been looking at a variety of ways of strengthening the relationship between the District and the Tsawout and Tsartlip communities.
“This was part of discussions under Wayne Hunter years ago,” he said, “but for one reason or another, it just didn’t happen then.”
After speaking with the band leadership at Tsawout, Paltiel said he believes they are interested in the transfer of land. The News Review has reached out to Tsawout Chief Harvey Underwood, but has yet to hear back.
Mayor Ryan Windsor added that Cordova Spit — or TIXEN, as it is known among the WSANEC people — doe have a sacred value to the Tsawout First Nation
“It’s proper to have that land within their community,” he told the PNR this week.
“As liaison to First Nations and this community as it stands presently,” Windsor said during the council’s July 10 meeting, “TIXEN was not recognized … as a place that was connected to Tsawout Village. To actually recognize and now talk about the idea of returning (the land) is a good one. Getting that conversation started corrects one of the many mistakes made in our history.”
Coun. Alicia Holman suggested that the District meet with the Tsawout as they begin the process of divesting the land. She added it would be a good time to explore other areas of mutual interest. Coun. Zeb King was supportive, but noted with the process already started, there would be consultation built into it.
Chief Administrative Officer Patrick Robbins said Central Saanich received some funding to meet with the Tsartlip First Nation on a different matter (a trail between the District and the Tsartlip along Stelly’s X Road), and is waiting for word from the Tsawout for a meeting as well, possibly before the fall.
Windsor noted the District and Tsawout will eventually have to work with the federal government, as the gift could see more land added to the reserve.
There may also be community feedback on the proposal, as Cordova Spit lies at the northern end of Island View Beach Regional Park. Public use of that park is in some question, as the capital Regional District pursues a new management plan. Last week, the CRD was notified by the Tsawout First Nation that they hadn’t adequately consulted with them on the plan, forcing its delay until August at the earliest.
Paltiel agreed his plan for Cordova Spit could face a lot of scrutiny, but said he felt taking this course is the right thing to do.