The B.C. government is providing $9 million over three years to the shíshálh Nation to support the nation’s plans to build new housing and pursue economic development, according to a joint media release issued Friday by shíshálh and the province.
Those plans are tied to the 176-hectare (397-acre) waterfront property in Porpoise Bay – previously known as Sechelt Sustainable Community (SSC) – that shíshálh bought last year.
The province’s $9-million contribution will go towards costs related to the land purchase and planning costs, the release said. The nation will cover the balance of the project costs.
The nation announced in January 2020 that it had purchased the former SSC site for $15 million, with hiwus (Chief) Warren Paull at the time saying the property “was too good to pass up.”
In Friday’s joint release, Paull calls housing “a perennial and serious challenge” for First Nations, adding that “shíshálh has been working for years to expand affordable housing, both to advance the well-being of our citizens and to enable more of them to return home.”
The release said the nation intends “to build and operate new culturally appropriate housing for their members, with a particular focus on Elders, women and children, and others in need of affordable housing in their community.”
Along with residential development, plans for the Porpoise Bay property would see it also used for economic growth opportunities – industrial and recreational development on the waterfront and a potential partnership for a hotel.
The funding is part of the 2018 Foundation Agreement, which commits the province to provide lands to the shíshálh Nation for residential development, either by providing 80 hectares of Crown land or a financial contribution for the purchase of private lands.
The contribution from the province, Paull said, “is critical to making this housing expansion possible and is another indication of how the principled partnership established in our Foundation Agreement is successfully advancing reconciliation consistent with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”
Powell River-Sunshine Coast MLA Nicholas Simons said the new housing is “very much needed” in the region.
“We are proud to be working with the shíshálh Nation in a long-term, government-to-government relationship, addressing needs like housing that benefit everyone in the community and people all across the Lower Sunshine Coast,” Simons said.
The Porpoise Bay land, named ts'ayemay by the Elders, borders Sechelt Nation Land 28 and has strong cultural significance for the shíshálh, according to Friday’s joint release.