In the early 1970s, commercial development was putting pressure on conservation of the Squamish River Estuary. As a result, both the Federal and Provincial Governments began developing a management plan for the Squamish Estuary to address competing commercial and environmental nterests. This management plan was completed by the Governments in 1982 without the Squamish Nation being invited to participate.
The management plan proposed that the lands lying to the east of the Estuary could be utilized for commercial purposes while those lands on the west would be used for conservation purposes. In 1984, a Squamish Estuary Coordinating Committee was formed to review the 1982 management plan. Ten years later, the Committee produced the 1992 Squamish Estuary Management Plan.
At the same time, BC Rail concluded that it would need a deep water port located in the eastern part of the Squamish Estuary to meet their future needs. BC Rail wanted to exchange lands they owned in the western portion of the Estuary with lands the Province of BC owned in the eastern part of the Estuary near Stawamus IR 24 to build the port.
During the Squamish Estuary Management Planning process, the late Chuck Billy expressed concerns that the parties failed to consult the Squamish Nation on developing a Squamish Estuary Management Plan and on their proposal to develop a deep sea port. As a result, the Province and BC Rail agreed to include the Nation in discussions about the management plan and the proposed deep sea port.
Representatives of the Nation focused on addressing the following issues in their discussions with BC Rail and the Province of BC:
- Infringement of aboriginal rights and title,
- Environmental impacts associated with building a deep sea port,
- Preservation of fish habitat,
- Exclusion from economic development opportunities within traditional territories, and
- The desire to secure rights to other lands to meet future needs of the Squamish membership.
In 1996, BC Rail and the Province of BC agreed to undertake negotiations aimed at addressing the needs of the Squamish Nation. These negotiations were led by the late Chief Joe Mathias, Chief Gibby Jacob and Harold Calla and have resulted in this Agreement which addresses the issues and concerns raised by the Squamish Nation membership.