Treaty for Comox band 'running through system'

K'ómoks First Nation members approved in March an agreement-in-principle, the critical fourth stage of the six-stage process in treaty negotiations with senior levels of government.

Little activity has since occurred because the province and especially Canada needed time to "run it through their system" before signing the document, KFN chief negotiator Mark Stevenson said this week.

A formal signing ceremony involving Vancouver Island North MLA/Indian Affairs Minister John Duncan, and Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation Minister Mary Polak has been scheduled for March 24.

"It's a big event, but it's purely ceremonial," Stevenson said, noting the term 'ratification' is used specifically for the final agreement.

The KFN population consists of 277 members. There are several KFN reserves in the Valley covering more than 750 acres.

B.C. Treaty Commission negotiations have so far taken about 16 years.

The AIP offers the K'ómoks people $17.5 million and about 5,000 acres of land, including the return of the tip of Goose Spit, which had been a contentious stumbling block in negotiations. It also includes about 2,000 acres at the Royston woodlot, and land at Williams Beach, Kelsey Bay, the base of Mount Washington and Lot BL7 near Union Bay.

"The lands at Mount Washington and Lot BL7, we get those as soon as we sign the AIP," Stevenson said. "It's called an incremental treaty on lands. We actually get it before there's a final agreement."

Stage Five is final agreement negotiations, which Stevenson said will involve fish negotiations, land improvements and annual funding formulas.

"It's finalizing the agreement," he said.

Stage six is implementation.

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