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Farmland deal reached
A newly inked agreement between the provincial government, the Tsawwassen First Nation and four local farming families has put an end to a long-standing legal dispute over the Brunswick Point lands.
Reached last week, the settlement allows the province to sell the lands—which were expropriated in 1968 for industrial development and subsequently reserved for treaty negotiation purposes—back to the previous owners.
“This is an important settlement which supports farming families at Brunswick Point, respects the Tsawwassen treaty and brings final resolution to a long-standing dispute,” said Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation Mary Polak in a press release. “It takes a great deal of negotiation, compromise and respect to reconcile legal issues, and I commend all parties for their work on this settlement.”
The agreement allows the Brunswick Point families to regain title to the Brunswick Point lands—located along the Fraser River where it meets the Salish Sea—at a pre-negotiated purchase price. It also keeps the lands in the Agricultural Land Reserve.
Four local families, the Swensons, the Montgomerys, the Gilmours and the McKims, have been fighting to get their lands back for more than 40 years.
“The Brunswick Point families are pleased that after many years of negotiations an agreement has been reached whereby they have an opportunity to regain title to the Brunswick Point lands,” said family spokesman Art Swenson.
Though the families lost ownership of their lands in 1968, they were able to keep farming Brunswick Point thanks to a lease agreement.
In a 2006 lawsuit filed in B.C. Supreme Court, the Brunswick Point families asked the courts to grant them first right of refusal to buy the lands back from the province. But this would have conflicted with the Tsawwassen treaty, which requires TFN be provided the first right of refusal for 80 years should the leasehold lands be sold outside the Brunswick Point’s families.
About 1,660 hectares of land including Brunswick Point, in Roberts Bank area, were expropriated in 1968 for port development. However, construction of the port took place on filled land and the expropriated lands were later leased back to the previous owners for agricultural purposes.
Tsawwassen First Nation Chief Kim Baird stated: “We are happy that this long outstanding issue is finally resolved to the satisfaction of all three parties. This is yet another example of where people acting with goodwill and a spirit of co-operation can resolve tough and sensitive issues.”
Delta South MLA Vicki Huntington hailed the agreement as a hard-won victory for local farming families and the ALR.
“The agreement is long overdue but very welcome,” said Huntington. “I couldn’t be happier that all parties have reached a settlement they find attractive.”
“The Brunswick Point families have endured long, hard, hurtful and frustrating years while coming to this agreement and it’s a good day for all of Delta,” she added.
The recent deal consolidates the land into four new large parcels. The province will maintain ownership of dikes and rights-of-way.
The agreement requires a farm use covenant, restricting the lands to agricultural use, and a conservation covenant that further conserves the lands for soil-based agriculture and migratory bird habitat.