Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation tours Peace region

Mike Carter, Chetwynd Echo


WEST MOBERLY – Provincial Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation John Rustad made a visit last month to the Saulteau First Nations to meet with Chief and council.

Peace River South MLA Mike Bernier accompanied Minister Rustad on a tour of the south peace, which also included meetings with mayor and council of the District of Chetwynd and Dawson Creek.

“At Saulteau, we had a great meeting with Chief and council and looked at the joint project, the greenhouse, they have with West Moberly,” Bernier explained.

The Twin Sisters Native Plant nursery consists of two greenhouses that are part of a program announced by the provincial government last July. The Native Plant Propagation program is a unique partnership between the two First Nations which focuses on growing stocks of plant species native to northeastern BC, with the goal of using those plants to reclaim land which has been altered by mining, pipelines, wind farms, logging and other industrial activities.

“It was great to show that to the minister,” Bernier said. “Seeing it first hand, Minister Rustad had some great comments about how we need to get the message out now to industry about the opportunities to collaborate with First Nations on projects like that and the employment opportunities that are available.”

The Twin Sisters nursery provides 14,000 square feet of growing space. About $147,000 for the project came from the Investment Agriculture Foundation of BC, with cash contributions also coming from Teck Resources Ltd. and Walter Energy.

From there, Minister Rustad and MLA Mike Bernier proceeded to visit with mayor and council in Chetwynd.

“We want to make sure, from a ministry side of things, the importance of having relationships between the local First Nations communities and the local government [is known],” Bernier commented.

“[Chetwynd] has a great relationship and they are always looking to expand on it so that is always good to hear. My job as the local MLA is to try to bring the ministers around so the mayor and council can meet them and talk about any challenges they have.”

The tour continued on to Dawson Creek, where meetings were again held with mayor and council.

Bernier was appointed chair of the Select Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs shortly after this past spring’s election.

He says the committee has not begun its work yet, but last month’s tour with the minister gave him a chance to kick start what he hopes will be a great working relationship with the minister and with First Nations around the province.

Before the committee can move forward, some terms of reference to dictate a focus for the committee must be developed.

“It’s high level discussion right now,” Bernier said. “Once we actually have our terms of reference, the committee moves forward. For now, it puts me just in the position where I have a great working relationship with the minister just to bring ideas forward.”