The Sechelt Indian Band’s (SIB) director for the Sunshine Coast Regional District said he is promoting closer economic ties with local government at the Band council level.
Coun. Keith Julius told board members at the Sept. 13 regular meeting that he recently attended an economic development summit in Osoyoos, where Osoyoos Indian Band Chief Clarence Louie made a point “that really got my attention,” he said.
“He asked me what our employment rate was and made a comment that if your employment rate is less than surrounding governments then you’re not working enough with them,” Julius said. “So I did a little bit of homework and found out that the SCRD unemployment rate is … about 10 or 11 per cent, while ours is up around 18 per cent. Then I said, ‘OK we’re not working enough with our local governments.’
“Those are the kinds of things that I’ve been speaking about to my government.”
Julius said the “new theme” at the SIB office is “working at the speed of business,” with administration and council talking to many companies and helping some to develop feasibility plans.
“I want more dealings sitting down working with the District of Sechelt,” Julius said. “The SCRD’s been doing great already in working with the Sechelt Nation.”
Julius said he has attended conferences and “heard the nightmares” from some communities about their municipal neighbours, “and I’ve thought, ‘It’s nothing like that back home.’ We have great relationships with all our surrounding governments.”
As an example he cited the SIB council’s first meeting with Gibsons Mayor Wayne Rowe after he was elected.
“He walked into our boardroom and he started speaking our language. He took a couple weeks and he went into our education department and he learned how to say ‘hello, ‘how are you,’ and I was really impressed by that.”
Based in the South Okanagan, the Osoyoos Indian Band has gained national attention under Louie, an Order of Canada recipient who is described on the Band website as “a strong leader for both local communities.”
“We have a great relationship with the town of Osoyoos — we’ve both worked co-operatively on initiatives and it does provide employment,” Brian Titus, the Band’s chief operating officer, told the Coast Reporter.
Band members are not the only ones to benefit from the job creation, Titus said.
“About 70 per cent of our employees are non-First Nation. We are at pretty much full employment,” he said, adding that the Band’s biggest challenge is finding and retaining qualified workers.
One of the band’s major initiatives was a four-season resort that came together “through strategic partnerships and strong leadership” and includes a desert golf course, winery, spa, cultural centre and 350-seat conference centre.