First Nations claim to land honoured by Victoria marina developer

A proposed luxury-yacht marina along Victoria West’s southern shore has won over some of its previous opponents.

Developers of the Victoria International Marina have reached an agreement with the Esquimalt and Songhees First Nations which promises of ongoing benefits to the people who once lived in the area.

“It’s taken some time for us to understand and recognize their interests and role,” said Lachlan MacLean, spokesperson for Victoria International Marina.  

“Similarly … it’s taken some time to communicate and get them comfortable with understanding how the marina might impact on their interests, and then work together on how we can deal with that.” 

The deal struck involves training and employment opportunities for the Esquimalt and Songhees people. 

“The marina itself doesn’t create a huge number of employment opportunities … but we’ll work with them with respect to future tenants of marina buildings, whether that’s the coffee house or restaurant or boat brokers,” MacLean said.

Marina developers will also pay an ongoing economic benefit to both nations.

The Esquimalt and Songhees First Nations have ended litigation launched against the developer and the federal government.

“We are very pleased with the outcome of these negotiations” said Songhees Nation Chief Robert Sam in a press release. 

“We are being acknowledged as nations and as governments with legitimate legal interests in our lands, and in this case, in the seabed around our lands.”

Esquimalt Nation Chief Andy Thomas said the agreement sets a template for all future development of the harbour. 

“We see this as an opportunity and a responsibility. This responsibility extends not only to securing the well-being of our communities but in ensuring the protection of our natural environment.”

The marina is now awaiting approval from both the federal and provincial government. 

In September 2010, Victoria city council down-zoned the 2.63-hectare water lot to limit the area where wharves, piers and other structures can be placed. 

The move significantly reduced the size of the proposed marina, thereby requiring the federal government to reopen its opportunities for public input.

The window for input closed last week.

rholmen@vicnews.com