By Lloyd Dolha
The Twassassen First Nation and the Vancouver Port Authority signed an unprecedented $47 million deal that compensates the Twassassen for the three decades of adverse environmental impacts from the port development at Roberts Banks and clears the way for future port development.
“We’re making history today,” said Twassassen Chief Kim Baird at the signing ceremony. “This deal not only provides justice to the TFN community for resolving long-standing issues, but it also provides us with the opportunity to build a much-needed climate of economic development for Twassassen people.”
The deal resolves a three-year legal battle between the band, the port authority and a number of government agencies and related entities involved in the development and operation of the port.
The deal also establishes a broad 25-year business partnership between the band and the port authority providing much-needed short and long-term jobs and investment opportunities in other port-related business ventures.
Chief Kim Baird said the new agreement offers a new era of economic cooperation between First Nations and the Canadian business community. The agreement removes a major obstacle to the port authority’s plan to expand the existing Deltaport container terminal, and add an entirely new three-berth container terminal at Roberts Bank.
The band has also agreed to support the transfer of certain provincial land and water lots to the port authority that are needed for the expansion of the container terminal facilities.
Baird said all the money is earmarked for the Twassassen people in terms of economic development, jobs and higher education.
“We recognize that the Roberts Bank facility is critically important to Canada’s economic well-being. Now, as equal partners, we will be doing business together, protecting our land and marine environment,” said Baird.
Under the terms of the agreement, the Twassassen will receive:
· $2.5 million for settlement of the legal dispute, which will be used to mitigate impacts from the existing facilities;
· Compensation of $4.5 million for past and future infringements on claimed aboriginal title caused by the development and operation of the Roberts Bank port facility;
· A $1 million development fund for education and skills training; and employment and contracting opportunities associated with port development and on-going port operations; and,
· In addition the First Nation and the port authority will establish a $10 million investment fund that will be jointly managed.
The agreement further stipulates that the port authority will provide $4 million of construction contracts. The 330 members of Twassassen must still ratify the agreement in a vote scheduled for November 29, 2004.
The 290-hectare reserve is bordered to the south by the BC Ferries causeway and the port authority’s container and coal port to the immediate north.