West Moberly First Nations and the PRRD are getting ready to sign on the dotted line.
First Nations representatives, and directors with the Peace River Regional District hope to sign a new three year memorandum of understanding (MOU), outlining principles on how the two will work together in the future.
Board directors approved the agreement at their April 29 meeting, and it largely provides a forum for the discussion of local issues, initiatives, and concerns shared by both groups.
Dawson Creek Mayor Dale Bumstead says the MOU is a step in the right direction and hopes to build relationships with other local First Nations - Doig River, Blueberry River, and Halfway River. He also expressed an interest in building relations with First Nations just cross the Alberta border, such as Horse Lake.
"I think this is a really positive step. I think the one thing we should begin to have conversations or discussions about is the the expansion of relationships with our Treaty 8 neighbours," said Bumstead. "Eventually, I'm assuming we would extend the same outreach into the Doig, Blueberry, and Halfway."
He added that multiple MOUs need to be crafted carefully.
"As we start to develop the individual MOUs to move forward with the relationship, I think it adds another layer of complexity for us in terms of how do ensure we're not creating some level of conflict with not having an overarching MOU with all of those Treaty 8 communities," Bumstead said.
Shawn Dahlen says the regional district has reached out to the remaining Treaty 8 First Nations, noting some are waiting until the COVID-19 pandemic passes to enter talks.
"It was a consideration as we worked through this MOU with West Moberly. One of the things that's going to happen as a result of this meeting as we work through this process is that there's probably going to be additional meetings with Electoral Area Directors in regards to initiatives that borders neighbours, and that bigger piece annually with the board," said Dahlen of engaging all local First Nations.
Chetwynd Mayor Allen Courtoreille asked if the MOUs are flexible.
"These memorandums, they're not set in stone, right? Their councils all have different ideas on what's presented from the PRRD and what's presented to us. So the memorandum of understanding is a living document and being able to move forward in that fashion. Rather than be stuck on one agreement," said Courtoreille.
Chair Brad Speling confirmed the MOUs can be amended and expanded upon.
"No, this is just the start, until we take a step forward to work together," he said.
The agreement also calls for one meeting per year between West Moberly First Nations' Chief and the PRRD board to help facilitate those discussions.
Environmental and cultural interests, commercial development, shared services, zoning, regional economic development, and municipal service agreements, are all topics listed for discussion within the document between the two organizations.
It’s the second MOU to be created by the PRRD with local First Nations this year, with board directors approving one with Saulteau First Nations in March.