Members of the media may contact public relations
5760 Allenby Road
Duncan, BC V9L 5J1
Ph: (236) 800-7070
Cowichan Tribes Reiterates Call for Higher Cowichan Weir Following Fish Die Off in Cowichan River
For Immediate Release: July 14, 2023
Duncan, B.C. (Quw’utsun Territory) - Cowichan Tribes, along with a number of other agencies, received a report from a concerned Duncan resident this week of a fish die off of juvenile salmonids in the Horseshoe Bend area of the Cowichan River.
Cowichan Tribes fisheries staff visited the site and noted several dozen deceased juvenile salmonids. The loss of any number of fish is very concerning. Lower river flows and higher water temperatures can increase the stress on fish, making it more difficult for them to withstand other pressures. While the cause of this incident has not yet been confirmed, Cowichan Tribes staff are working in concert with Department of Fisheries and Oceans, the Cowichan Watershed Board, Catalyst Crofton, and others to conduct further environmental testing and data collection to determine the extent of the impact and what factors contributed to the death of these fish.
“On June 9, 2023, I sent a letter to BC Minister of Forests, Hon. Bruce Ralston, and Hon. Nathan Cullen, Minister of Water, Land, and Resource Stewardship regarding extremely low water levels in the Cowichan River jeopardizing the survival of wild salmon fry,” said Cowichan Tribes Chief Lydia Hwitsum. “We also reiterated our call for the Province to come to the table to support a new, higher Cowichan Weir so that the river and salmon do not face these dire circumstances in the future,” added Hwitsum.
The acute need for replacement of the weir at Lake Cowichan has never been more evident as this year. This incident reinforces the concerns for the Cowichan River that been expressed for more than a decade. Leaders in the region have been working collaboratively and diligently to gain the necessary financial support to replace the weir, and it is now fully designed and engineered.
“Support is urgently needed from the Province of B.C. to match federal dollars. The environmental, social, and cultural importance of the Cowichan River is too important to delay any longer,” said Chief Hwitsum.
Call to Action on Community Safety
For Immediate Release: May 25, 2023
Duncan, B.C., Quw’utsun Territory – Cowichan Tribes Chief and Council are sending their love and condolences to the family of a 15-year-old youth with ties to Cowichan who passed away last week. Our prayers are with her family as they lay their loved one to rest.
Cowichan Tribes departments have been actively providing supports to community members. “The safety and wellbeing of Quw’utsun Mustimuhw (Cowichan people) and vulnerable populations in our region is a top priority for me and our entire Council,” said Chief Lydia Hwitsum. “Too many of our community members have experienced the unspeakable loss of a family member at a young age. We need to work together community-wide to combat crime and demand safety by reporting any and all suspicious activities to the RCMP,” added Hwitsum.
Cowichan Tribes has been in contact with the North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP regarding this tragedy. We are appealing to witnesses or anyone with information regarding the circumstances leading to this young woman's death to support the investigation. Please call the RCMP detachment at (250) 748-5522 or report online here: https://ocre-sielc.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/bc/en. "We are asking our entire community to come together to support justice for this family," said Chief Hwitsum. "Active reporting is an important way our citizens can help law enforcement in the work they are doing," stated Hwitsum. "We are grateful to those who have come forward to provide information to advance this investigation thus far," said Inspector Chris Bear, Officer in Charge of the North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP.
Cowichan Tribes takes issues impacting the safety of our citizens very seriously. On May 5th, we co-hosted a walk in partnership with Tsow Tun Le Lum Society in honour of the National Day of Awareness for Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls that was attended by hundreds of supporters. This issue affects First Nations across the country and earlier this month a motion was passed unanimously in the House of Commons calling the deaths and disappearances of Indigenous women a national emergency and stating funding is needed for an alert system.
Cowichan Tribes representatives meet regularly with members from our local RCMP Detachment regarding community safety. On June 29th, for the second time this year, RCMP and Cowichan Tribes will host a Town Hall meeting at the Si’em Lelum Dining Hall at 6:00 pm.
Cowichan Tribes & Province Sign Historic Agreement Marking the launch of Xwulqw’selu (Koksilah) Watershed Planning
Ist' hwialasmut tu Xwulqw'selu Sta'lo' – We are taking care of the Koksilah River.
May 12, 2023
Duncan, B.C., Quw’utsun territory – Cowichan Tribes First Nation and the Province of British Columbia are celebrating the signing of a precedent-setting Agreement (S-xats-thut tst). The Xwulqw'selu Watershed Planning Agreement builds on three years of government-to-government work by Cowichan Tribes and the Province.
Today’s signing marks the launch of the next phase: a comprehensive process to develop a long-term plan for the Xwulqw’selu (Koksilah) Watershed, located within the Quw’utsun (Cowichan) watershed on eastern Vancouver Island. This will be the province’s first Water Sustainability Plan developed under the Water Sustainability Act, and will address the ‘whole of watershed’ needs – those of the flora, fauna, land, and the communities that depend on the watershed – in the development of long-term water solutions.
Cowichan Tribes and the Province agree to jointly lead the planning process and approach decisions as equal authorities with distinct legal traditions and responsibilities. The Agreement is informed by 11 Quw’utsun snuw'uy'ulh (teachings) and ensures that local Indigenous values guide the process and provide a foundation for an enduring and respectful co-governance relationship. For example, Nutsamat kws yaay’us tth qa’ – We come together as a whole to work together to be stronger as partners for the watershed.
The Xwulqw’selu Watershed features prominently in Quw’utsun origin stories and is central to the culture and identity of Quw’utsun Mustimuhw (Cowichan people). It supports multiple species of fish, vital ecosystems, Indigenous and local food security, and sustains the diverse livelihoods of residents and businesses. In recent years, the Watershed has experienced serious climate related challenge, including extreme low flows in the summer and flooding in the winter.
“The Xwulqw'selu watershed is under pressure and we know the current path is not sustainable - for fish, for the ecosystem, or for people. We need to come together to develop a plan that protects the watershed's health and sustains Cowichan Tribes and the Cowichan Valley communities for generations to come,” said Chief Lydia Hwitsum. “This plan is the first of its kind and signals a commitment to work together in an enduring partnership based on respect and recognition of Cowichan Tribes’ inherent authority and our teachings,” added Hwitsum.
“Healthy watersheds are at the heart of all social, environmental, and economic systems supporting
B.C. The Province and Cowichan Tribes share a responsibility to protect the Xwulqw'selu Watershed,” said Nathan Cullen, Minister of Water, Land and Resource Stewardship. “Through this landmark agreement, we will continue to work together to make shared decisions on the watershed and ensure it is sustainably managed now, and into the future.”
Cowichan Tribes and the Province are committed to early, transparent, and ongoing engagement with Cowichan Tribes citizens, local residents, and the wider community, as well as water and land users - starting in the coming months. They look forward to working together to share knowledge, undertake research, and propose solutions for a sustainable future for the Xwulqw’selu Watershed and the people, animals, and plants that depend on it.
Hon. Pam Alexis, Minister of Agriculture and Food
“Protecting the Xwulqw’selu Watershed is vital to Indigenous and local food security now and for future generations. It is also important that we support local farmers and strengthen the community’s agricultural economy. By working in partnership with the Cowichan Tribes, we will chart a path that leads to sustainable water use and a resilient food supply, as well as the protection and restoration of fish populations and local ecosystems that rely on the watershed.”
Hon. Bruce Ralston, Minister of Forests
“This historic agreement will lead the way for building a long-term plan for the Xwulqw’selu (Koksilah) Watershed in full partnership of the Cowichan Tribes who are the traditional stewards of this land, and whose knowledge will inform and guide the process. Agreements like this one are an important step to realizing our commitments under the Declaration Act and vision for inclusive and sustainable natural resource stewardship with First Nations as full partners."
Xwulqw'selu Watershed Planning Agreement: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/environment/natural-resource-stewardship/consulting-with-first-nations/first-nations-negotiations/first-nations-a-z-listing/cowichan-tribes
Initiative website: https://www.koksilahwater.ca
Cowichan Tribes Marks New 32-Unit Modular Housing Project Completion With Pre-Occupancy Tours
Statement for Release: March 22, 2023
Duncan, B.C. – Today, Cowichan Tribes hosted pre-occupancy tours of the newly completed 32-unit Modular Housing Project for dignitaries, project partners, and staff. The buildings have recently undergone final inspection and received occupancy permits. Tenants are expected to move in at the beginning of April.
This new affordable rental housing infrastructure is funded by Cowichan Tribes in excess of $4.3 million in partnership with Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), who provided a grant of $4 million. There are three buildings, with a range of units including studios, one-bedrooms and two-bedrooms. Building A has 16 units; Building B has 10 units; and Building C houses six units. The buildings are constructed following Step Four of the BC Building Step Code to ensure energy efficiency and keep heating costs down for residents.
“This project is the largest build Cowichan Tribes has ever undertaken,” said Acting Chief Administrative Officer, Cindy Daniels. “I lift my hands up to the staff from our Capital Projects, Sustainable Housing, and Lalum’utul’ Smun’eem (Children & Families) Departments for the thoughtfulness and collaboration that went into this project. Their work not only added to the much needed on-reserve housing stock for families, Elders and young people, but they also had the foresight to build in community amenities, including a teaching and multi-purpose space with a kitchen, as well as a playground, sport court, and public washroom facilities with a water fountain.”
Opening nearly one year later than initially planned, the project was delayed by labour shortages and global supply chain issues in several areas including concrete, hand railings, and hydro meters. “We want to thank our community for their continued patience and support in the completion of this project,” said Gina Warburton, Acting Director of Capital Projects and Acting Associate Director of Housing. “Getting to this stage has been a labour of love and we are looking forward Cowichan Tribes to seeing the smiles on our new tenants’ faces when they move in over the next few days and weeks.”
Sixteen units will be used for housing department rentals and 16 one-bedroom units for Lalum'utul' Smun'eem to support young moms and youth as they age out of care. They will have access to life skills and supports through onsite connections and programming. “Lalum’utul’ Smun’eem is so pleased to see these units and facilities completed. We will have common areas to host workshops and other activities to help build community amongst the youth, young moms, and Elders,” said Addie Price, Acting Director, Lalum’utul’ Smuneem.
Cowichan Tribes also recognizes Tire Stewardship BC for providing a $14,400 grant towards a rubberized surface for the accessible, nature-themed playground. A separate rubberized surface for the multi-use sport court will be installed once the temperatures are warm enough. Cowichan Tribes will host a community-wide celebration in the late spring, once this surfacing work is complete and tenants have settled in to their new homes.
KDC Sub-Contract for Trucking Work on Cowichan District Hospital Replacement Project
Statement for Release: February 27, 2023
Duncan, B.C. - Khowutzun Development Corporation (KDC) has negotiated a sub-contract with one of the contractors on the Cowichan District Hospital Replacement Project to provide trucking services for a three-month period, with a possible extension. As required, this sub-contract was submitted to BC Infrastructure Benefits (BCIB) and the Allied Infrastructure and Related Construction Council (AIRCC) for approval and a positive response has been received.
“This is a step in the right direction towards economic reconciliation and acknowledges that systems excluding Indigenous participation are no longer acceptable,” said Chief Lydia Hwitsum. “The Cowichan District Hospital Replacement is one of the largest projects to be undertaken in our territory and Cowichan businesses have the capacity to contribute to its success. We look forward to a more inclusive process going forward.”
“When we suggested this approach in October, it was ignored, and then rejected. These months of negotiations could have been months where our skilled employees were working on this project had our initial proposal been accepted,” said Jodee Dick, KDC CEO. “Our truck drivers are looking forward to being on the Cowichan District Hospital construction site later this week to start this short-term sub-contract. We are also working hard to secure some civil and earth works,” added Ms. Dick.
Read the full statement here.
Clarity Needed Regarding KDC Work on Cowichan District Hospital Replacement Project
Statement for Release: February 10, 2023
Duncan, B.C. – Initial discussions regarding the Cowichan District Hospital Replacement Project between Cowichan Tribes’ economic development arm and Island Health began in August 2021. Yet Cowichan Tribes was excluded from the negotiations of the Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) that governs this major infrastructure project located within Cowichan traditional territory. Consequently, the CBA excludes consideration of Cowichan economic interests.
While Island Health and BC Infrastructure Benefits (BCIB) cite Indigenous participation on the project, the system in place limits participation for First Nations citizen-owned companies looking to sub-contract scope of work for the various phases, such as: trucking, earthworks, and civil, unless they agree to unionize and have their employees join BC Infrastructure Benefits (BCIB). At this stage of the project, all scope of work has been contracted out to various contractors, through signed agreements with the primary contractor.
“We expect that comments made by Health Minister Adrian Dix in the BC Legislature on February 8th are a commitment to ensure greater inclusivity for our businesses on the Cowichan District Hospital Replacement Project,” said Chief Lydia Hwitsum. “However, we have not yet received formal notification from any parties involved of any changes. In the meantime, our companies and their workers are sitting on the sidelines watching the clock run out on any meaningful participation on this $1.45 billion project,” continued Hwitsum.
"We proposed a solution within the Community Benefits Agreement to get Khowutzun Development Corporation (KDC) and our citizen-owned companies working on site in October 2022. That same proposal is still in discussion four months later,” said KDC CEO, Jodee Dick. “The latest correspondence from Allied Infrastructure and Related Construction Council (AIRCC) requires KDC to try to negotiate sub-contracts at substandard rates far below our current Island rates. The next step is to forward those contracts for approval by AIRCC. We have not received a green light,” added Ms. Dick.
The new Cowichan District Hospital is an important project for all residents in the Cowichan Valley. It is also an opportunity for the province to build relationships and advance economic reconciliation with our community, the largest First Nation in B.C. by population. Cowichan Tribes and Khowutzun Development Corporation remain committed to working with partners to secure employment and contract opportunities for both Cowichan citizens and companies on this project.
Read the full statement here.
Time is Running out for a KDC Work Permit on the Cowichan District Hospital Replacement Project
January 19, 2023
Duncan, B.C. – Cowichan Tribes and Khowutzun Development Corporation (KDC) have been advocating for many months to secure economic opportunities for Cowichan citizen-owned companies as part of the Cowichan District Hospital Replacement Project. This project, located within Cowichan traditional territory, is valued at $1.45 billion and represents one of the largest infrastructure projects in our region.
Cowichan Tribes was excluded from the negotiations of the Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) that governs this project. There was also no mechanism for Cowichan Tribes to negotiate an Interim Benefit Agreement that would have secured a scope of work for our nation's economic development arm (KDC) and our Cowichan citizen-owned civil and construction companies. The Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples includes the right to economic reconciliation. However, the existing CBA excludes consideration of Cowichan economic interests and Khowutzun Development Corporation’s initial work permit request was rejected.
“It is unacceptable that the traditional peoples of this land should be excluded and deliberately prevented from playing a role in the building of vital community infrastructure,” said Chief Lydia Hwitsum. “This amounts to a rejection of our Rights and Title within our territory. It is hard to believe in today’s environment of Truth and Reconciliation that we would find ourselves in this situation,” added Hwitsum.
Chief Lydia Hwitsum and KDC CEO, Jodee Dick, met this week with BC Infrastructure Benefits (BCIB) and the Allied Infrastructure and Related Construction Council (AIRCC) to try to find a solution and remove the barriers preventing KDC and Cowichan companies from participating on this project. “We have submitted another work permit proposal, which is now under review,” said Jodee Dick, CEO, Khowutzun Development Corporation. “We hope to receive approval in the near future, as the scope of work that can be performed by our citizen-owned companies continues to dwindle each week,” added Ms. Dick.
Read the full statement here.
Work Stoppage at New Cowichan District Hospital Construction Site
December 2, 2022
Cowichan Tribes is aware that a Cowichan citizen has locked the gate at the construction site of the New Cowichan District Hospital in protest of the BC Infrastructure Benefits (BCIB) process.
Cowichan Tribes and Khowutzun Development Corporation (KDC) have been meeting for several months and with increased frequency in recent weeks, with representatives from Island Health, Ministry of Health, BCIB, and the general contractor, Ellis Don. These meetings explored economic opportunities for Cowichan citizen owned civil and trucking companies and mechanisms to work outside the BCIB process. “Commitments were made to find ways to address hurdles and be more inclusive of Cowichan Tribes on a major infrastructure project taking place in our territory. These discussions have not resulted in any actions to meet these commitments,” said Chief Lydia Hwitsum. “The clock is ticking as these economic opportunities pass by our citizens’ companies and work is performed by contractors from outside our region,” added Hwitsum.
“Khowutzun Development Corporation has been seeking opportunities for our citizens and citizen owned businesses to perform work on the construction of the new Cowichan District Hospital,” said Jodee Dick, Chief Executive Officer of KDC. “We have been working to create positive relationships with other contractors and trade unions, and they have been supportive of getting our citizens working on this project” Ms. Dick continued.
The new Cowichan District Hospital is an important project for all residents in the Cowichan Valley. It is also an opportunity for the province to build relationships and advance economic reconciliation with our community, the largest First Nation in B.C. by population. Cowichan Tribes and Khowutzun Development Corporation remain committed to working with partners to secure employment and contract opportunities for Cowichan citizens on this project.
Cowichan Tribes Offices Closed on National Day of Mourning
September 14, 2022
The Government of Canada has announced a National Day of Mourning to mark the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II. Please be advised that Cowichan Tribes Offices will be closed on Monday, September 19, 2022.
What this day represents for people across the country will be shaped by their historical experience, knowledge and understanding of how Canada came to be a nation at great cost to the original inhabitants of these lands. For the Canadian Government, this is a day of mourning. For the Quw'utsun Mustimuhw, this day is a time for sombre reflection on the impact the monarchy has had on our people. “Our cultural snuw'uy'ulh (teachings) are to recognize and respect those who have passed on and I extend my condolences,” stated Chief Lydia Hwitsum. “At the same time, we cannot overlook that during the late Queen's reign, the colonial model was exercised intensely on our people and around the globe," continued Hwitsum. “The resulting harms and intergenerational trauma have ongoing impacts in our community.”
Salish Bear Totem by Stan Modeste Reinstalled at Malahat Summit
September 29, 2022
On September 29, 2022, a private cultural ceremony was held to reinstall the Stan Modeste Totem, Salish Bear, to its rightful place at the Malahat Summit. Hosted by the Modeste family, representatives of the Cowichan Tribes, Malahat, Halalt, Lyackson, Stz'uminus, and Penelakut First Nations, City of Duncan, Municipality of North Cowichan, and the Cowichan Valley Regional District were invited to bear witness to this important milestone ahead of Orange Shirt Day and National Day of Truth and Reconciliation on September 30th.
“Historic injustices and ongoing racist attacks weigh heavily on our community,” stated Chief Lydia Hwitsum. “Quw’utsun people are taught by our Elders to help one another and work together for the good of all. It has been greatly appreciated to see and experience the support of the larger community for the repair and reinstallation of Stan Modeste’s Salish Bear Totem,” continued Chief Hwitsum.
Cowichan Tribes Approves Changes to Shtunni’s tu Hwulmuhw, Citizenship Code
July 5, 2022
In its recent Ratification Vote conducted in person, electronically, and by mail, Cowichan Tribes members passed changes to the Shtunni’s tu Hwulmuhw, or Citizenship Code, with 79% of votes cast supporting the amendments.
“The revised Shtunni’s tu Hwulmuhw makes it easier for people to understand who can apply for Cowichan Tribes membership,” said Chief Lydia Hwitsum. “This vote and these changes are an important milestone for our community, as the last amendments were made on June 28, 1992. We know a lot has changed in 30 years and we wanted to ensure our Citizenship Code reflected these changes.”
Celebrating Watershed Restoration Project Completion While Planning for the Future
June 3, 2022
The Cowichan and Koksilah Rivers are at the heart of Cowichan Tribes. However, these rivers have been greatly affected by climate change as well as human impact.
“This is an important opportunity to demonstrate recognition and respect for Cowichan jurisdiction and leadership,” says Chief Lydia Hwitsum. “This level of investment, collaboration and shared decision making is crucial. I am thankful for the investments that have been made by all partners. We must continue this level of collaboration and recognition, as we face climate change and seek meaningful reconciliation with each other as well as our natural systems that support us.”