About 148 acres of land in the Fraser Valley, equivalent to Vancouver’s Hastings Park, has been transferred by the provincial government to three First Nations in the area — the Leqamel, Matsqui, and Sumas.
The agreement between the provincial government, the City of Mission, and the First Nations’ LMS Society will lead to a subdivision.
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This includes a park parcel of about 124 acres, which will be leased to the municipal government — over 99 years for a nominal fee — to manage for public use as a community park and recreational area, as well as two development parcels to be developed by the First Nations to support much-needed housing in the area and provide economic opportunities.
“The return of our lands is fundamental to who we are as Indigenous Nations. We have been working to have these parcels come back to us for a decade,” said Alice McKay, the chief of the Matsqui, in a statement.
“We are very pleased that we have achieved this in partnership with local government. We need to work together to ensure that Indigenous and non-Indigenous citizens in our territories have a foundation for positive and mutually beneficial relationships.”
Murray Rankin, the BC Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, says this is a “forward-looking agreement that meeds the needs of all members of the community. It stands as an example of how governments in BC can work together to advance reconciliation, create economic opportunity, and enhance the quality of life in communities.”
The site of the transferred land is located next to Fraser River Heritage Park and the former St. Mary’s Residential School.
A park management plan will be created in partnership with LMS and the city to maintain the area’s natural character, protect sensitive environmental elements, enhance cultural and historical understanding, and guide future improvements.
“The City of Mission is honoured to be part of this historic agreement. It is a unique initiative, and we believe it shows how reconciliation can strengthen community for all,” said Paul Horn, mayor of Mission.
“Mission is determined to be part of a new path forward for local government-First Nation relationships. Our history has included many examples of injustice and disrespect toward Indigenous Peoples. It is time to write a new chapter, one that builds partnerships.”