Hupacasath First Nation

By Emma Posluns

With information from Brandy Lauder, Natural Resource Manager

The traditional territory of the Hupacasath First Nation covers centralVancouver Island, including Port Alberni. Their land includes a vast range of geographical features such as lakes, rivers, mountains, and forests. This plentitude of resources has resulted in the Nation receiving 15-20 Crown Land Referrals per month. These mostly concern the sectors of forestry and local development. The Natural Resource Manager and her assistant handle referrals, but sometimes send them to other managers, such as the Fisheries Manager.

As the referrals office is small, staff needs to be efficient in their daily activities. Thus, the Hupacasath First Nation relies heavily on their new website which was created in 2005. The website does all the tracking, reminding, and cataloguing required for a Crown Land Referral. Referrals come in to the office via the website and the program immediately sends proponents confirmation of their request. The website program also sends reminder emails to the Natural Resource Manager, for example about due dates. At any time proponents can check on the status of their referral without contacting the Natural Resource Office, which decreases the office time spent answering questions over the phone. The website also stores past referrals making it an efficient tracking system.

The Hupacasath First Nation’s referrals process was not always this streamlined. Before the website was launched proponents would go to the appropriate ministry first, who would then send the referral to the Nation. By the time the Nation received and completed its response to the referral, thirty days may have gone by. During the thirty days, the referrals office would have been constantly writing letters to the proponent requesting more information, and updating them on progress. To compensate for this lengthy process, the Natural Resource Manager would have template letters ready to be filled out and sent; new letters were not written for each new referral. Today a proponent interested in undertaking an activity on Crown Land, such as mining, can contact the office first, visit the proposed site with the Natural Resource Manager, and possibly receive a “go ahead” before ever involving a provincial ministry. This process saves time for the developers and the Hupacasath referrals office, and permits for development can now be ready within two days.

For the Hupacasath First Nation, having a two-person office and an online referral application is efficient and organized. The energy and time needed to respond to a referral has decreased, which allows staff to spend more time on other projects. An online program may not be an option for all Nations - it is important for each First Nation to find its own route adapted to its own needs.