First Nations to get millions in Olympic funds
Two B.C. First Nations are getting a multimillion-dollar thank you for their support for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver but say it doesn't mean they won't be protesting.
The federal government is giving $17 million each to the Musqueam and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations to ensure they can benefit from the Games.
Musqueam Chief Ernie Campbell said while he and other chiefs support the Games "100 per cent'' they are also an opportunity to highlight systemic problems plaguing the aboriginal community.
"There are a lot of First Nations issues around the living conditions and things like that aren't being addressed,'' he said.
"They will use this opportunity to have their feelings felt and let the world know what is going on.''
The traditional territories of the Musqueam and Tsleil-Waututh are in the greater Vancouver area and are home to sporting venues and other sites for the Olympics.
Their deals follow two others signed in 2002 with the Squamish and Lil'wat nations, whose traditional lands are around the Olympic venues in Whistler, B.C.
Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs, Chuck Strahl, acknowledged there was no guarantee that the "legacy agreement,'' as it's being called, can quiet the voices of aboriginal dissent.
"People have the right to highlight their concerns as well, and my hope is and my expectation really is that these kind of agreements are to help maximize benefits to First Nations in the host area,'' he told reporters after signing the first of the two agreements being formalized Friday.
"In the long run this will do more to advance the aboriginal cause from culture, language and living conditions and you name it, this will do more to enhance it than any protest could do and I think the four host nations understand this is the right way forward.''
The six-year delay between the signing of the original legacy agreements and those announced Friday was blamed on bureaucracy.
The Squamish and Lil'wat were given the funds six years ago to build a culture centre that would be used to showcase their heritage during the Games.
The funds announced are for the bands to spend as they wish to harness the economic, social and culture benefits around the Games.
Strahl said there are restrictions around the money to ensure it's used for development directly in connection with the Olympics.
Campbell said it will be up to his band council to decide how to use the funds, whether it be for land acquisition, job training, or other economic development projects.
Musqueam elder Larry Grant said linked the agreement with his band to the federal government's apology about residential schools earlier in the week.
"I believe we are taking the first steps in following the apology that was given two days ago,'' he told the crowd of elders, women, children at the Musqueam recreational Centre.
"The apology without these actions would not be as meaningful as they are today.''
The deal with the Tsleil-Waututh was to be signed Friday afternoon.