Westbank First Nation has a strong economy, in part due to its self-governing status. Read on below to learn more about WFN's history and development, and download our February 2017 WFN Business Profile for a snapshot of current statistics and information regarding development, capital projects, residential and commercial neighbourhoods, number of businesses, and partnerships.
In 1989, WFN began negotiating with Canada for self-government and signed a framework agreement in 1990. After years of community consultation and lobbying, the WFN Constitution was ratified in 2003, and WFN’s Self-Government Agreement, a bi-lateral (government to government) agreement with the Government of Canada, providing owner-type rights and powers to WFN over its lands and resources, including the authority to grant interests and licenses in relation to the land, along with powers that often supersede Provincial Authority, was implemented in 2005. Rather than being governed under Canada’s Indian Act, WFN is now governed under a modern and comprehensive set of community laws, with full jurisdictional control over its lands and resources. A modern taxation system and lands registry was also implemented in 2005, ensuring investments to be safe. Being the first Reserve in Canada supported by ‘Land Title Insurance’, WFN’s land tenure system is guaranteed. State-of‐the‐art infrastructure, governance controls, decision-making powers and Land Title Insurance all provide confidence for investors, with attractive mountain-lakeview locations being prime for development. WFN works hard to responsibly manage its 5,340 acres of reserve land, protect its resources, environments and watersheds, while also continuing to expand its land base.
The impact the WFN Land Code and Self-Government Agreement has had on WFN includes increased accountability and transparency of the WFN Government, political and financial stability, security of land tenure (individual and collective), increased property values, increased opportunities for members (employment, business and education), improved standards of living and social web of community, increased capital investment on WFN Lands (infrastructure and associated land development), increased cultural awareness and cultural programming, community pride in being self-determining and not governed under Canada’s Indian Act, and significant fiscal and economic contribution to the local, provincial and federal economies.
Commercial & Residential
Amongst First Nations across Canada, WFN has the largest commercial development and non-Aboriginal population on its land, and the first Aboriginal Economic Development Commission (EDC). Supporting 400 businesses on reserve, including many international box stores and over a dozen major financial institutions, WFN’s EDC prioritizes business retention, facilitation, attraction and providing an advisory role to Council. As commercial developments on WFN continue to grow, it also allows residential taxpayers to continually pay a lower share of total property taxes. The residential burden will be at a low of 53% in 2016.
Wine & Tourism
Within reach of over 200 wine estates, microbreweries and distilleries, including Indigenous World Winery, the world's first 100 per cent Aboriginal-owned winery which opened on WFN lands, May 2016, the Okanagan boasts nearly 82% of total vineyard acreage in the entire province. The Okanagan Valley has been named one of the 10 best wine destinations by the Wine Enthusiast magazine, ranked #1 wine region in the world by The Huffington Post, and dubbed the 2nd best wine region to visit by USA Today. Supported by Thompson Okanagan Tourism and National Aboriginal Tourism, both organizations recognize the value Aboriginal Tourism plays in economic development. Tourism supports approximately 19,000 businesses and 127,500 employees in B.C., and within that, Aboriginal tourism more than doubled in its value in 2015 to $42M. To learn more about the activities, traditions, attractions and culture on the Westside (stqaʔtkʷəɬniwt) and in Kelowna (kiʔlawnaʔ), visit WFN’s own Sncəwips Heritage Museum at sncewipsmuseum.org or VisitWestside.com.
WFN also has a timber license that allows for an annual cut of 100,000 cubic metres, across 150,000 acres of WFN’s traditional territory, creating skills, training and job opportunities for its Members.
WFN operates as a Limited Partner (40%) with Anthem Properties (60%) in the Snyatan Shopping Centre, as well as a 50-50 partnership with Churchill International for ownership of the Okanagan Lake Shopping Centre.
WFN is also currently working towards creating two wind farms through partnerships, one near Pennask Lake off the Coquihalla Connector towards Merritt, and another between Summerland and Peachland. Together, they are expected to create 15 megawatts of power at each station, enough to power up to 4,000 homes.
Westbank first Nation has processed $400 million in business permits since 2006. [View full building permit breakdown]
$28 million (164)
Manager, Economic Development & Communications
Westbank First Nation
T 250 769 4999
F 250 769 4377
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