New signage went up on fencing around Semiahmoo Park this week, promoting a move that Semiahmoo First Nation Chief Harley Chappell says isn’t unique among First Nations communities – but it is significant for SFN.
“It’s a new way of doing business,” Chappell told Peace Arch News, of the joint-venture agreement that SFN now has with TYBO Contracting Ltd.
“It’s not an anomaly. It might be here, for Semiahmoo First Nation – it’s one of our first partnerships. We’re working on a few others.”
The agreement took effect “four or five months ago” but came to the public’s attention on Wednesday morning, when large signs bearing the two groups’ names and “Building a Legacy In Our Community” were affixed to the chainlink fencing that has surrounded the park since early 2011.
The signage sparked some speculation from area residents that a major development may be in the works for the park site.
Chappell and TYBO president Len Lauriente didn’t identify specific plans, but did say “a few projects” were in the works. Chappell added that any enhancements to the reserve land “will benefit everybody.”
Lauriente said the joint venture agreement will mean jobs for both TYBO and the SFN; for SFN, it also opens the doors to economic opportunities outside of the band’s traditional territory.
“Semiahmoo is kind of… a special circumstance,” Chappell said.
“All of our natural, traditional economic opportunities don’t exist in our traditional territory (any more). We can’t reconcile with any environmental benefit.”
The joint venture is all part of moving the SFN community forward, he said.
“Then we become self-governing, self-driven,” Chappell said. “We want to get to a point where our community is self-sufficient, self-determining.”
Lauriente, a South Surrey resident, noted TYBO underwent a “vigorous” interview process prior to SFN selecting the company for the joint venture.
He and Chappell agreed that a central component to the relationship is mutual respect.