The K’ómoks First Nation (KFN) and the Comox Valley Regional District Sewage Commission (Sewage Commission) are pleased to announce the ratification of a Community Benefits Agreement that commits both parties to work together collaboratively on a regional solution for sewer. The agreement will provide needed upgrades for Comox and Courtenay sewer infrastructure, while supporting the growth and economic development plans of the K’ómoks community.
“This agreement between the CVRD and KFN is a shining example of the leadership here in the Comox Valley and unceded territory of the K’ómoks First Nation. By working together in the spirit of reconciliation we can set the examples for other municipalities and Indigenous communities nationwide to ensure that we all move forward together,” said Chief Nicole Rempel. “In working toward installation of sewage services to the south, we can address many concerns regarding failing septic systems as well as anticipate and prepare for future developments down the road, and most importantly to protect the streams, beaches and Baynes Sound area from further failing septic systems.”
The partnership recognizes that the existing sewer line through Indian Reserve was expropriated without adequate consultation and provides compensation for past and future impacts of sewer infrastructure within the reserve. The Sewage Commission will work with KFN to protect archaeologically sensitive areas during construction in an effort to preserve cultural heritage sites, ancestral burial places and artifacts.
“For the City of Courtenay, building on our good relations with K’ómoks First Nation and practicing reconciliation is one of our strategic priorities, and we are always looking for opportunities that will bring us towards this goal,” said Mayor of Courtenay, Bob Wells. “This agreement is a major and concrete step forward and we are grateful to all parties for this collaboration.”
The Comox Valley Sewer Service provides sewer treatment to residents of the Town of Comox and City of Courtenay, as well as CFB Comox. In early 2020 the Sewage Commission made the historical decision to accept wastewater from communities south of the City of Courtenay boundary, which includes KFN development lands. This unprecedented decision depends on strong leadership from both Comox and Courtenay municipal councils to work in partnership with KFN, ensuring a regional approach to sewer services that will protect local beaches, waters and BC’s largest shellfish industry in Bayne’s Sound.
“This agreement is another example that reflects the important and longstanding partnership we have with our K’ómoks First Nation neighbours,” said Mayor of Comox, Russ Arnott. “It is crucial to collaborate with our neighbouring communities and areas to address the fragile sewage line at Willemar Bluffs to ensure the long-term well-being of our waters and the safe, efficient delivery of wastewater in the region.”
While infrastructure does not currently exist to move wastewater from south of Courtenay, this agreement commits the Comox Valley Regional District to champion and seek grant funding, as well as other project partners to extend sewer infrastructure south. As partners in this agreement the K’ómoks First Nation will support all permits and approvals required for upcoming conveyance upgrades (pipes and pump stations) as part of the Liquid Waste Management Planning Process that is underway.
KFN and the CVRD now plan to share this agreement with Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, Josie Osborne, BC Minister of Municipal Affairs and Murray Rankin, BC Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, as a testament to what is possible when local governments and First Nations work together to seek solutions to region wide issues.