For the first time in history, a sitting premier visited Lhtako Dene Nation’s headquarters.
Past premiers have met with Lhtako representatives in Quesnel, but never before in community, on reserve.
Premier David Eby was on a northern junket and stopped in Quesnel for meetings with the ages-old residents of the area. He was interested in finding out how this First Nation has managed to advance so many large-scale initiatives in a short period of time.
The set of interactions started with a business meeting with chief Clifford Lebrun and councillors.
Part of Eby’s interest traced back to his days as minister of housing, when he and other ministers created a groundbreaking – literally – funding model to build homes on First Nations reserves. This was a shock to the governance system because that had been exclusively the jurisdiction of the federal government, but the B.C. government’s feelings at the time were that Indigenous people were going unhoused in critical numbers while Ottawa showed too few signs of seriously investing in their reserved properties for Indigenous people.
Lhtako Dene Nation was one of the first to utilize this new funding model, so Eby was shown a number of completed homes, and the site of an 18-unit subdivision for more on-reserve housing.
The premier was also taken to see the new longhouse Lhtako has built, and the foundations that are in for the new Lhtako health centre.
Forest landscape planning was another topic of discussion, because Quesnel and Lhtako have been working together on that, with the involvement of the provincial government.
A Lhtako economic development corporation is advancing towards startup, so Eby was interested in that progress, also.
The premier was then taken for a tour of the new powwow arbour the Lhtako community has built. At that site he met with City of Quesnel representatives, School District 28 representatives, private-sector representation from Osisko Gold and West Fraser Timber, plus government staff and a wide cross-section of the Lhtako Dene Nation.
Eby was smudged by elder Bryant Paul and then was presented with a Lhtako Quesnel BC Winter Games jacket. Eby messaged back the next day to remark that it was already one of his favourite jackets.