School District No. 91 property located across the highway from the Burns Lake Band’s Gathering Place. (Laura Blackwell photo)

Burns Lake Band seeks to repossess property, chief says

‘Our lawyer is working on this’

The Burns Lake Band (BLB) is hoping to obtain a property from School District No. 91 (Nechako Lakes) that BLB Chief Dan George says used to belong to them.

The property, which is no longer in use by the school district, is located across the highway from the Gathering Place.

“Our lawyer is working on this,” said George, adding a significant portion of the Village of Burns Lake sits on expropriated BLB land. “We are left with a few small portions of reserve lands.”

Mike Skinner, assistant superintendent for the Nechako Lakes School District, said the school district’s maintenance and transportation departments used to utilize the property, but they have since moved to the Muriel Mould Neighbourhood Learning Centre.

“When this situation happens, we are required to follow a process outlined by the province for disposing of these properties,” said Skinner, adding the school district was made aware of the BLB’s interest as part of this process.

But there have been no recent developments or communication between them about this topic, Skinner said.

Meanwhile George said he hopes the municipality will support their claim.

“We need help from the village to get the property back from the school district,” he told Lakes District News in December.

Sheryl Worthing, the village’s chief administrative officer, said council has not discussed this topic to date.

The Burns Lake Band is planning to bring it up during the Community to Community Forum in mid-February, when the village and surrounding First Nations meet to increase understanding and improve overall relations between them.

Lake Babine Nation, Burns Lake Band, Cheslatta Carrier Nation and Wet’suwet’en First Nation have confirmed attendance, said Valerie Anderson, the village’s deputy corporate officer, adding invitations have been sent to all six surrounding First Nations.

The village and Lake Babine Nation have each made a financial contribution of $2,500 for forum expenses while the Union of B.C. Municipalities will provide $5,000 in funding.

George said it pays off to work together toward common goals.

“I think it is all about developing a good working relationship, just like the water treatment plant that we partnered to get it built,” said George. “We must work together as we have the same concerns for our people.”

Funding for the $4.8 million water treatment plant, expected to be completed in the summer of 2021, came from federal, provincial, First Nations and local government contributions.

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