RDN creates new position focused on First Nation relations

The Regional District of Nanaimo is looking for a liaison to work with First Nation communities

The regional district is putting words into action.

A first time position focusing on First Nation relationships with the Regional District of Nanaimo (RDN) was posted last week.

The permanent, part-time position will cost the RDN about $44,000 a year.

According to director Bill Veenhof the intention of the position is to “build bridges” with the First Nation communities within the regional district including Qualicum First Nation (QFN), Snaw-naw-as (Nanoose) and Snuneymuxw First Nation.

“What I’ve learned is that very little happens on a reserve that’s good that isn’t good for the community outside the reserve,” said Veenhof, who represents Deep Bay/Bowser.

Last year, the RDN passed a motion to formally acknowledge First Nation traditional territory.

At the time, regional district CAO Paul Thorkelsson said “it is a true recognition by the RDN board of the important partnerships the RDN is building with First Nations of this region and the important role those partnerships will continue to have going forward.”

Thorkelsson told The NEWS the start-date of the new position will depend on the applications the RDN receives.

The external posting on the RDN website reads: “The Intergovernmental Liaison will be responsible for providing senior level information, advice and support to the RDN on the interests of First Nations… This position is responsible for ensuring positive intergovernmental relationships with First Nation communities.”

Veenhof originally put forward a motion to create an ‘intergovernmental liaison’ position in February.

“What’s really important to me is respect for First Nation sovereign rights within the reserve and band,” he said. “This should never be looked at as us (the RDN) trying to determine outcomes on a reserve — it’s all about communication and bridge building.”

Specifically, Veenhof said he hopes the position can help speed up projects around transit and the medical system.

“It’s definitely warranted,” QFN chief Michael Recalma told The NEWS Tuesday. “I’m happy to see it going forward, it will be interesting to see who applies and how it works.”

Recalma is also the alternate director representing Deep Bay/Bowser — in RDN history, this is the first time a First Nation chief has sat on the board of directors.

Thorkelsson explains the job description for the intergovernmental liaison was developed in consultation with neighbouring regional districts who have similar positions, board directors, staff and contacts and chiefs of local first nations.

While Thorkelsson called this position a first of its kind at the Regional District of Nanaimo, he said staff members and management often worked on similar duties “off the side of their desk.”

“This is the first time we’ve had a position focussed in this area,” he said. “So this is a change in direction in moving forward with a dedicated staff person.”

For more information visit www.rdn.bc.ca.

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