The District of Fort St. James and Nak’azdli band councils signed an agreement Monday Sept. 15 establishing a mutually beneficial relationship that will officially start their two councils working together.
A block party on Kwah Road was a symbol of the government-to-government connection with free food and live music to celebrate the historical event. People of all ethnicities were seen mingling and having a good time.
“Our history is so important to us it’s sometimes hard to work together with our cultural divide and religious divide but we need to get passed that,” said Mayor Rob MacDougall, on stage at Monday’s block party. “We need to set aside our differences. I acknowledge that this event is taking place on Nak’azdli land and it is a great day because from here forward we will be planning this community together. This road is an imaginary wall and tonight we took the first step to illuminating it and we will eliminate it.”
The protocol agreement is the first of it’s kind and recognizes that both communities not only sit on Nak’azdli traditional territory but that they will officially start to work collaboratively as one.
“We are not going to forget this day,” said Chief Fred Sam of Nak’azdli band. “It’s time we work together for the betterment of both communities and for the betterment of everyone. This [agreement] will especially help the health side of things and get rid of the racial barriers.”
Each councillor present took turns signing the agreement with the purpose of working more co-operatively with one another.
By engaging in the agreement, both parties agree to develop more mutually beneficial initiatives and participate in council-to-council meetings to develop an intergovernmental relationship moving forward on joint priorities.
“We used to work together because we had to but now we work together because we want to,” said Mayor MacDougall.
The agreement also includes a section stating both communities will strive to celebrate each other’s cultural values, protect the environment and provide employment opportunities that reflect each communities standards and values.
A Partnership Steering Committee has also been put into motion whose members will work to implement the protocol agreement.
Four representatives from both the District and Nak’azdli will sit on the committee and meet quarterly to discuss completed tasks and relevant updates.
Some joint interests of both councils moving forward include co-operative land use planning and management, cultural and heritage protection, economic development, environmental protection, shared services (water, sewer, fire protection and snow removal) emergency preparedness, housing, and education.
“This is the highlight of my political career,” said Mayor MacDougall. “This brings all of us together as one and we will become one.”