Transparency to Build Understanding:
Tsleil-Waututh Nation and the District of North Vancouver
Tsleil-Waututh Nation (Tsleil -Waututh) and the District of North Vancouver (the District) were more than a year into re-negotiating their service agreement however the process was essentially stalled. Both parties knew that a different approach was required to move forward.
To build a good understanding of each government’s responsibilities, the District and Tsleil-Waututh sat down together and reviewed the list of services they each provide to their residents and the costs of providing these services. Quickly, it became clear that Tsleil-Waututh provides a broader range of services than the District, including social services, health, and education. The comparison also showed that many municipal services are also provided either in part or in whole by Tsleil-Waututh (e.g. governance and administration, planning and recreation, etc.). It was also found that Tsleil-Waututh pays for operations and maintenance (O&M) of some services and thereby being billed twice – through being responsible for O&M on-reserve, as well as paying the municipal charges (which includes the cost of O&M).
After developing a deeper understanding of each other’s responsibilities and costs, Tsleil-Waututh and the District were able to reach an agreement on services and costs within six months. The resulting agreement listed the full suite of municipal services provided by the District, and included a credit for services that were duplicated by Tsleil-Waututh. A more transparent process and a commitment to overcoming the challenge of negotiation positively transformed the relationship between Tsleil-Waututh and the District.
Tsleil-Waututh and the District acknowledged the significant effort taken to build a mutual understanding, and the resulting outcomes at the beginning of their signed service agreement:
“…extensive dialogue and information sharing has been undertaken in a fair, honourable, respectful, and transparent manner. Historical perspectives have been shared. The District acknowledges that the Tsleil-Waututh Nation has a distinct language, culture, history, and identity and has used and occupied the lands within its traditional territory for thousands of years. The Tsleil-Waututh Nation acknowledges many people now live on these lands and the District has responsibilities towards these people within their boundaries.”
- Re-negotiation requires time and commitment. It may not be a short process.
- Even though the process was not always smooth, working through challenges together in the re-negotiation process has increased the level of trust and strengthened the relationship between the two communities.
- Being proactive and open in sharing service and financial information was very effective for building understanding among communities
- Documenting and adopting a government-to-government vision and key relationship principles at the outset was critical to setting the context for negotiations and for implementing the Agreement.