George Lampreau, Kúkpi7 of Simpcw First Nation, experienced his first Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM) convention last month, and says he was rather impressed with how it was run.
“It’s pretty much the same thing as the First Nation leadership meetings we have next month in November in Vancouver.”
The gathering is a partnership between the First Nations Leadership Council (comprised of the BC Assembly of First Nations, the First Nations Summit and the Union of BC Indian Chiefs) and the provincial government. As one of the largest meetings of provincial and First Nations leaders in the country, the event is designed to recognize, respect and honour relationships between the respective governments, and facilitate joint dialogue and collaboration, with one-on-one meetings between First Nations leaders and provincial government representatives offered on-site.
”During UBCM, the mayors from towns get together and take their ‘asks’ and wants for their community to the ministers, and we do the same thing from our side during our leadership convention in November,” says Lampreau. “I think since we are going to be signing the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with all of the mayors in the valley from Barriere, Clearwater, Valemount and McBride, our collective partnership really made an impression on government and ministries while attending UBCM together. I could see the look of surprise in some of the ministers’ faces and a bit of confusion, walking into a meeting with ministers I have known, almost unsure of what I was doing there with the mayors from the valley.”
Lampreau says he feels it was “really huge for our valley representation” when describing how this working partnership within the North Thompson is viewed by the province and ministers, as they see the strength in numbers with Simpcw and the valley mayors working together as “good neighbours.”
The desire to formalize their commitment to partner together by signing an MOU and working on common issues in the valley is the message they all presented at UBCM.
“I think it went over really well and it was one of the real signs of communities coming together, to speak for the betterment for all of the constituents in the valley here,” says Lampreau.
“There are issues all of our communities face. Housing is one of our biggest concerns and we are looking at joint projects to develop housing in the communities. We need staff housing for the additional staff we hire, communities need housing in general, so we plan on looking at these projects and how they can benefit all of us.”
Having First Nations at the table when the mayors present their ideas to industry or government will show they have consulted with their Indigenous partners as part of the overall collective planning, working as true valley neighbours and, in the kúkpi7’s words, “making sure the valley is a success for all of us.”
Lampreau says he hopes that the proposed MOU will be signed in November at the First Nations Leaders’ Gathering taking place on the territories of the Xʷməθkʷəyəm (Musqueam), Sḵwx ̓ wú7mesh (Squamish) and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) First Nations in Vancouver.
“We wanted to do it at UBCM but we needed to fine-tune it slightly. It will be one of the bigger relationship-building exercises in the province, covering off the whole of Simpcw territory, which is five million hectares of mayors, chief, and councils speaking on behalf of their members and residents. We want to have full media attending and highlight what we are doing. We are all doing so much good work, [but] we tend to just get it done and move on to the next project. We need to take the time to start giving ourselves a pat on the back, which will educate the general public about what we are doing and why moving forward.”
Lampreau would like to see two signings of the MOU: one at the First Nations Leadership gathering and the other in the spring when travel is safer for everyone.
“We’ve invited quite a few of the ministers to come out, and invited the premier when we had a few minutes with him recently during UBCM. Owen Torgerson, the mayor of Valemount, and I personally invited him to the MOU signing. We all feel that is one of the bigger relationship-building projects in the province.”
Lampreau believes the North Thompson valley has progressive-thinking people living and working together, who see the value of working together with Simpcw First Nation and the positive impact that working together can bring to everyone.
“The government has to do a better job in consultation in order for things to move ahead. We need to be involved right from the onset. We want to educate and let people know that we all face the same issues, the same problems, and our desire is to be good neighbours in the valley and work together.
“I’m hoping this will be a model for the rest of the province. Our collective partnership in the valley is what is possible when you are all at the table together as municipalities and as First Nations. I speak on our territory as a whole, not limited to on reserve. I’m here to support the mayors. That is the benefit of this relationship.”