Grief, rage and hope: The successes and failures of self-governance for Canada's First Nations

An 'Idle No More' logo is seen pinned to the back of a demonstrator's coat. REUTERS FILE

An 'Idle No More' logo is seen pinned to the back of a demonstrator's coat. REUTERS FILE

David Akin, Parliamentary Bureau Chief

, Last Updated: 4:38 PM ET

OTTAWA - When Robert Louie was first elected to the Westbank First Nation band council in 1974, the council operated out of a tiny trailer and the only staff they could afford was one secretary.

Louie is now the chief of Westbank First Nation, next to Kelowna, B.C., and the band over which he presides employs more than 200 staff housed in buildings of 100,000 square feet or more.

Westbank First Nation is now generating an estimated $500 million a year in economic activity and the businesses on the reserve send back about $130 million a year in tax revenue to the federal and provincial governments.

What made the difference?

Certainly, Westbank's proximity to a major city like Kelowna was one factor, but Louie says the key factor was the ability of the band to get out from under the onerous land management restrictions of the Indian Act and give the band full control over the 6,000 acres on their reserve.

 


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