In January 2018, the WLC submitted a 3-month Work Plan and Budget Proposal to the Federal Government for funding to support discussions related to the W̱SÁNEĆ Bands establishing a unified legal governing body. The proposal was approved, and after 3 months of discussion and deliberation it was decided that the W̱SÁNEĆ bands would proceed with the formalization of a unified legal entity called the W̱SÁNEĆ Leadership Council (WLC). Furthermore, it was decided that the WLC would enter into exploratory discussions with the Federal Government through the Recognition of Indigenous Rights & Self Determination (RIRSD) program. The goal of the RIRSD program is to bring greater flexibility to discussions between First Nations and the Federal Government based on the recognition of rights, respect, cooperation and partnership. At these discussions, W̱SÁNEĆ can explore with Canada new ideas and ways to reach agreements that will recognize our rights and advance our vision of self-determination. In March 2018, a subsequent 2018-2019 Budget and Workplan Proposal was submitted on behalf of WLC to the Federal Government and was once again approved for funding.
In August 2018, the WLC rented and renovated the old Tsartlip Health Building to utilize as its headquarters and main office.
September 2018, WLC submitted a proposal to the Federal Government’s “Nation Rebuilding” funding program. The Nation Rebuilding program is aimed at providing funding to help bands reconstitute themselves as nations once again. WLC submitted a series of “Unity Projects” and as a result the submission was approved. As a first step, we are excited to announce the “Travelling Together Project” and the “W̱SÁNEĆ Song Restoration Project.”
The Travelling Together Project will see the WLC coordinate and administer funding to construct four sibling ocean travel canoes, one for each of the 4 W̱SÁNEĆ villages. These canoes will participate annually in Tribal Journeys, will be used to reef net fish, and will be involved in ceremonies. Once again W̱SÁNEĆ will travel and work in unity on the water.
The W̱SÁNEĆ Song Restoration Project is a project to restore W̱SÁNEĆ traditional social and public protocol songs. W̱SÁNEĆ had songs of prayer, paddle songs, dinner songs, victory songs, etc., but, unfortunately, these have been eroded over time by colonialism. Singers from each of the four W̱SÁNEĆ villages are currently coming together to share and restore W̱SÁNEĆ songs so that we may stand strong once again with a united voice.
On January 24, 2019 the W̱SÁNEĆ Leadership Council and Canada signed a Letter of Understanding committing both parties to move forward together to advance lasting reconciliation and make real progress on the issues most important to the W̱SÁNEĆ Nation. Through the Letter of Understanding, Canada and W̱SÁNEĆ Nation will explore a number of priorities that would support the eventual negotiation of a nation-to-nation reconciliation agreement. Priority topics include: Gulf Island National Park Reserve; the recognition and implementation of Douglas Treaty rights; Fisheries; acquisition of lands; and education. The Letter of Understanding marks an important shift in the W̱SÁNEĆ people’s relationship with the Federal Government. We have waited for over 150 years to have productive conversations with the Federal Government aimed at solving the long-standing issues that impact the lives and livelihoods of our people. We look forward to further developing this relationship and envisioning, together, a more hopeful future for the W̱SÁNEĆ people.
Other work and discussion tables include:
- Negotiating Government-to-Government relationship with the Capital Regional District (CRD) and discussing the Residuals Treatment Facility at Hartland Landfill
- The feasibility of the Proposed National Marine Conservation Area in the Southern Strait of Georgia
- Changing the relationship that the W̱SÁNEĆ Leadership Council has with Parks Canada and the Gulf Island National Park Reserve
- Ensuring that the W̱SÁNEĆ Leadership Council and the Victoria Airport Authority can work toward an agreement that will benefit the W̱SÁNEĆ community
- Developing a W̱SÁNEĆ Leadership Council Economic Development Corporation
- Discussing the potential impacts of the Joint Utilities Board Sewage Outfall Project with the District of North Cowichan