“Even the year leading up to signing the agreement,” recalls Burns Lake CAO Sheryl Worthing. “We had lots of good and respectful discussions around what the service agreement would look like.”
The current service agreement includes many of the services that are eligible for subsidy funding from Indigenous and Northern Affairs (INAC), with a few added extras according to Lake Babine Housing and Infrastructure Director, Bernard Patrick.
“For many of the other services – not subsidized through INAC funding – it can be difficult to provide,” notes Patrick – citing challenges with their own source revenue. “The Village of Burns Lake has been very good to us. For certain services, such as snow removal, they put that in as an in-kind service.”
The relationship between these two neighbouring communities had not always been a rosy one. Worthing notes that “20-years ago it wasn’t good at all. We had a mayor at the time that didn’t get along well with the chief.”
Much has changed over the years, including leadership.
“They are courteous and accommodating,” says Patrick as he describes working with the Village. “I’ve dealt with their administrator and their public works department and I’ve never had any issues.”
Understanding the differences in how the other community operates – including cultural differences has played a key role in building a respectful relationship between these communities. Staff with the Village of Burns Lake underwent First Nations training to better understand their neighbour including their history and how they like to work.
“We had people from our local First Nation that offer this course at a local college, come to us,” explains Worthing. “They talked to us about their history, how they got here, how they like to work, and how they like to meet. Just understanding their culture makes a big difference in being able to learn how to communicate and work together.”
Both Worthing and Patrick highlight the importance of truly understanding each other’s perspective and how one another operates when working together as neighbours.
Part of understanding each other’s perspective means understanding general context about governance, responsibilities, leadership structures, and available funding mechanisms. Understanding this background can be very helpful in smooth negotiation and administration of service agreements. There are some useful resources that includes more information on the First Nation government and local government contexts:
First Nation governments
- BC Assembly of First Nations – www.bcafn.ca
- BC Treaty Commission – www.bctreaty.net
- First Nation Real Property Taxation Guide (First Nation Tax Commission, 2014) – Introduction, legislative powers, bylaws property assessment, tax rate setting and collection, Development Cost Charges
- Governance Toolkit: A Guide to Nation Building (BC Assembly of First Nations, 2011) –
Jurisdiction, services, financing, Indian Act and sectoral governance initiatives, treaty process
- Ministry of Community, Sport & Cultural Development
- Union of British Columbia Municipalities
- Primer on Regional Districts in BC (Province of BC, 2006)
– Detailed history, why they were created, what they do, legislation, principles of the RD system, how they make decisions
- Introduction to Regional Districts on British Columbia
– Role and mandate of regional districts, legislation and letters patent, principles, elected officials and voting, service delivery (including creating a service) and cost recovery
- Regional District Governance in British Columbia: A case study in aggregation (Institute on Governance, 2001)
– History, principles and philosophy, structure, voting, cost recovery and financing, accountability and citizen participation
- Introduction to Regional Districts: Communities in Partnership (UBCM, Province of BC, 2005)
– Role (service provision, administration), structure and procedure, finance, FAQs
- Local Government in British Columbia: A Community Effort (UBCM, 2015)
– Municipal and regional district governance, services, community participation, elected officials, policy, administration, funding
- Local Government in British Columbia (Bish and Clemens for UBCM, 2008)
– Municipal and regional district structure, service delivery and finance, First Nation governments (range of governance structures)