The latest chapter in the saga of Woodwynn Farm has seen the Tsartlip First Nation take ownership of the property from the province, which acquired it through BC Housing in July 2018.
BC Housing secured the 193-acre property on the Saanich Peninsula from the Creating Homefulness Society, which bought the property in 2009 as a therapeutic farm for recovering addicts and the homeless. The society aimed to provide a supportive environment for residents as well as an opportunity to learn life skills.
Since acquiring the property, the province had been leasing it to a local farmer for hay, grain and market gardening.
The province provided Tsartlip First Nation with a $7.8 million grant to facilitate its purchase of the property, which lies within the Agricultural Land Reserve. The farmer’s lease has been extended to September 2021.
Tsartlip councillor and elder Paul Sam noted in the government press release announcing the deal that he was raised as a farmer on the land, and noted that his grandfather grew fruit and vegetables there. The property is important to the Tsartlip, as it was originally part of lands covered by the Douglas treaty, which the province failed to honour.
Tsartlip members have yet to decide on the use of the property, though housing is a high priority as the adjacent reserve is built out.
The province’s press was issued by Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation minister Murray Rankin, the neighbour in the legislature of agriculture minister Lana Popham.
During a year-end interview with Country Life in BC, Popham said she looked forward to working with Rankin on advancing reconciliation with First Nations, as stipulated in her mandate letter.
“Our offices are side by side, so I hope that he and I will be able to work together on issues more closely,” she said.
Green Party MLA Adam Olsen, who represents the riding of Saanich North and the Islands, expressed excitement “for the community and the new chapter for this important farm.”
“These lands have long provided for the WSANEC people and there is an incredible opportunity for that to continue,” he said.