The Í:xel Sq’eq’ó (ee-hel-skih-ka) Agreement, which translates to English as “Together We Paddle”, is the first agreement of its kind to bring three individual First Nations, local, and provincial governments together in a meaningful act of reconciliation that creates both cultural and economic opportunity and enhances the quality of life in the community. This historic and unique agreement was signed on July 21, 2021 by the City of Mission, Leq’á:mel, Matsqui and Sumas First Nations (together as the LMS Society), and the Province of BC and returns 60 hectares of undeveloped Crown land to the LMS Society, outside of any established treaty or in addition to reserve processes, to establish new public parklands and residential and commercial development opportunities. The Leq’á:mel, Matsqui and Sumas First Nations are independently, autonomous nations who, recognizing their shared territory and overlapping interests, have developed a relationship together and jointly with other governments with common interests to form the LMS Society. The Í:xel Sq’eq’ó Agreement is expected to bring tangible benefits to long-term economic development in the region by creating much-needed commercial/retail space, improvements to local infrastructure projects, implementation of a park management plan, and support much-needed housing in the area. The Agreement embodies the principle that it is in the best interests of all parties to foster stronger and more collaborative government-to-government relationships to maximize and collectively benefit from land, resource, and economic development opportunities within the region.
The Agreement is also an example of both the City’s and LMS Society’s commitment to ensuring an environmental, social and governance (ESG) framework is incorporated into the fabric of the effort to benefit the entire community. It exemplifies how diversity, equity, and inclusivity (DEI) can support a community’s marketing effort, and while not a traditional strategy for investment attraction, investors are increasingly looking for opportunities based on these values, recognizing the importance these principles have on clientele decision-making. The Agreement highlights the values that are an important part of the community’s identity and helps outside interests to better understand and align with them. With investors looking for businesses dedicated to positive ESG issues, the City and LMS Society have built brand equity, financial worth, and meaningful social impact to protect and create value for businesses, individuals, and the community.
Mission is determined to be part of a new path forward regarding relationships between local governments and First Nations and is therefore committed to working together with neighbouring First Nations to ensure that Indigenous and non-Indigenous citizens in its territories have a foundation for positive and mutually beneficial relationships and economic opportunities. In addition to the foundation built through the Í:xel Sq’eq’ó Agreement, the City of Mission also adopted the 9 Principles of Reconciliation on April 19, 2021. These 9 principles will help the City continue to gain a better understanding of how to engage and build relationships with local First Nations communities. It forms the basis for developing a communications strategy and an agreement on the sharing of information and consultation and provides a foundation on which to identify common goals and objectives, develop economic opportunities for indigenous communities, and collaborate on initiatives.