The Province is set to transfer 11 hectares of Crown land to the Nicola Valley First Nations, fulfilling a promise made in March 2019 to work together to grow the regional economy and advance reconciliation with the First Nations.
“This journey of having these lands transferred to the five First Nations has been made possible by the commitment and hard work of past and present Chiefs and Councillors to realize this day. I would like to acknowledge in particular the work by former Chief of the Lower Nicola Indian Band, and our past chair of Spayum Holdings LP, Aaron Sumexheltza,” said Jordan Joe, Chief of the Shackan Indian Band and a director with Spayum Holdings Limited Partnership.
The lands will be transferred via Spayum Holdings, a consolidated development corporation owned by the five Nicola Valley First Nations. Spayum anticipates investing $40 million and creating hundreds of permanent and temporary jobs during development of the site. The development will also reopen the landmark Merritt Gateway rest stop for travellers on the Coquihalla Highway.
“Supporting the Nicola Chiefs in this important business opportunity will benefit residents and visitors to the Nicola Valley, and is a positive example of our government's efforts to advance reconciliation with the Nicola Valley First Nations through new economic development opportunities," said Scott Fraser, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation. “This important step strengthens our government-to-government relationship with the Nicola Valley First Nations, creates job opportunities for members within their communities and shares in the prosperity of the province.”
The parcel, known as the Gateway 286 lands, is key to the First Nations’ development strategy, which will support the economic and social health of the Nations, help build community strength and well-being and promote the First Nations’ culture and history.
“We continue to strengthen our government's relationship with the Nicola First Nations, as part of our commitment to support economic and social development priorities,” said Doug Donaldson, Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development. “We look forward to continuing to strengthen that relationship through further opportunities and collaboration to foster regional prosperity.”
The Coldwater Indian Band, Lower Nicola Indian Band, Nooaitch Indian Band, Shackan Indian Band and Upper Nicola Indian Band, as a collective of local First Nations, sought the transfer of the Gateway lands for more than two decades. Completing the transfer affirms the Province’s commitment to support the Nicola Valley First Nations in the important business opportunity they are pursuing at the Gateway lands.
In March 2019, Premier John Horgan signed a letter of commitment to work collaboratively with the Nicola Valley First Nations on economic development, including transferring the Gateway 286 lands. The land transfer process under the Land Act, including public consultation and consultation with neighbouring First Nations, has been completed.
The site previously held the Merritt tourism information centre, which closed in January 2018. The land transfer and development plan for the property is supported by the City of Merritt.
“The City of Merritt is pleased to come together in partnership with the local Nicola Valley Indigenous communities to welcome this transfer of land at Exit 286. Many years of planning and consultation have laid the foundation for this land transfer at this prominent community entrance,” said Linda A. Brown, mayor of Merritt. “Our council acknowledges and respects the principles of trust, openness and reconciliation laid out in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and we are pleased to see this great example of local collaboration. We look forward to this new opportunity to work together at Exit 286 for the overall well-being of the Nicola Valley.”
In recent years, the Nicola Valley First Nations have worked with the Province on specific economic and environmental issues, including a March 2018 memorandum of understanding to collaboratively manage the Nicola watershed.
2019 Nicola Valley Economic Development Protocol: https://news.gov.bc.ca/files/Protocol_Agreement_BC_Nicola.pdf