The City of White Rock and the Semiahmoo First Nation have announced the signing of new utility service agreements – a further sign the governments have turned a corner in a previously-troubled relationship.
Under the agreements, announced Thursday (March 18), White Rock will be providing some specific water supply and sewer services for the SFN.
Principal supplier of water to the SFN, through an agreement signed in 2018, remains the City of Surrey, which activated water mains connecting city supply to the First Nation in December.
The relationship between SFN and White Rock soured in 2016 when the city gave the First Nation 18 months notice that its limited water service to the lands would be terminated.
Interpreted as an ultimatum by SFN, the move led them to seek the agreement with Surrey.
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Water-quality issues have been a long-term problem for the SFN since 1995, with the First Nation under a boil-water advisory since 2005.
In a joint statement released Thursday, SFN Chief Harley Chappell hailed the new agreements as a milestone in the rebuilt relationship between White Rock and the First Nation – which has been a priority of the current White Rock council, elected in 2018.
“The Semiahmoo First Nation is proud to work alongside our friends and neighbours at the City of White Rock,” Chappell said.
“These agreements renew hope in building a long-lasting partnership of respect and co-operation with the city. We look forward to the continued co-operation between our governments as we move into the future.”
White Rock Mayor Darryl Walker noted in the statement that the new utility service agreements fulfill promises made in council’s Strategic Priorities document for 2020-2021.
“(Signing) demonstrates the City’s dedication to the important partnership with our friend and neighbour, the Semiahmoo First Nation,” Walker said.
“We continue meeting as governments to strengthen our partnership and progress toward the completion of new agreements. We look forward to continuing to build trust.”
Other items in the Strategic Priorities document relating to the SFN-White Rock relationship include a memorandum of understanding for drainage, and a communication protocol.