Ocean Falls Community Revitalization Committee

The Ocean Falls Community Revitalization Committee will be visiting the community on July 18, 2022.

The Ocean Falls Community Revitalization Committee (“committee”) will explore social and economic challenges and opportunities for consideration of the Ocean Falls Improvement District and the Central Coast Regional District with the aim of collaboratively creating a Revitalization Assessment Report and shared vision for the community for review by the respective agencies on the committee. 

Scope and Mandate
Given the overlapping and multifaceted governance framework of the Ocean Falls community, it is important to understand the roles, responsibilities and interests of each agency represented on the committee. The committee recognizes these roles and works towards a collaborative and consensus-based approach to building a revitalization plan that capitalizes on the unique perspectives, insights, and mandate that each committee member brings to the table. Through discussion at committee meetings and research undertaken by a facilitator, the following will be identified and defined:

  • Interests, roles and responsibilities of the agencies on the committee; 
  • A shared understanding of key community information; 
  • Key community issues, including, but not limited to, derelict buildings; 
  • Key community strengths and assets; 
  • Short (1 to 2 years), medium (3 to 5 years), and long-term (5 to 10 years) actions to meet revitalization goals; and; 
  • A process for committee members to report back committee discussions and research findings to their respective agencies and provide feedback to the committee.

Reconvene the committee after the 2022 elections to facilitate a discussion between the parties on how to leverage their resources and come to agreement on a set of actions stemming from the Interim Revitalization Assessment Report.

General Orientation to the Community of Ocean Falls

  • The Ocean Falls community is located at the head of Cousins Inlet, west of Bella Coola in the Central Coast Regional District (CCRD). The town is remote and only accessible by private boat, B.C. Ferries, or floatplane.  It is situated around a waterfall from Link Lake straight into the head of Cousins Inlet, 88km (55 miles) northwest of Bella Coola.
  • The core population is estimated at 35 to 60 residents; in the summer, the population increases to 150. The people living there are sometimes referred to as “The Rain People” as the location is one of the wettest parts of Canada, receiving over 4,390 mm (172 inches) of rain annually.
  • The Ocean Falls Improvement District (OFID) Trustee Board Chair is Rachel Daykin. Daniel Bertrand is the CCRD Electoral Area Director for Ocean Falls. Jennifer Rice is the North Coast NDP MLA.

History of Ocean Falls

  • The Heiltsuk people have occupied and used the land in Ocean Falls since time immemorial, congregating to fish at the base of the falls that once descended from Link Lake directly into Cousins Inlet. 
  • In 1903, the Bella Coola Pulp and Paper Company (the Company) began surveying the area of Ocean Falls for timber and acquired the rights to 260 acres of land. The inexpensive power that could be generated from the enormous waterfall at the head of Cousins Inlet and the water in Link Lake above the falls was pure enough to be used in pulp making without filtration. 
  • By 1906, the Company transitioned from the seasonal village and began clearing the way for a town to be built.
  • In 1912, a Crown grant was entered into between the Province and the Ocean Falls Company to operate a pulp and paper mill. 
  • In 1914, a new company named Pacific Mills Ltd took over operations. The company supported improvements for the town. A doctor was brought to the town, a school was established along with a fire hall, post office, dock warehouse, hotel, Olympic sized swimming pool, customs building and a church. Houses, apartments and bunk houses were also built to accommodate the workers and their families.  
  • Both WWI and WWII brought labour shortages with soldiers going off to war. Also, in WWII, the mill lost many Japanese Canadian workers, as they were sent from their homes in Ocean Falls to interior “internment” camps. 
  • The 1950’s and 1960’s saw continued growth and expansion in the community. 
  • However, by 1973, mill operations ceased by mill owners and the land reverted to the Province along with the school, courthouse, hotel and other structures. 
  • The Province operated the mill until 1980 and then demolished many of the structures.

Location and Access to Ocean Falls 

  • Ocean Falls is located approximately 480 km north of Vancouver and 88 km west of Bella Coola, at the head of Cousins Inlet off Dean Channel.
  • Isolated by the steep terrain and coastal mountains, there are no in roads and Oceans Falls can only be reached by sea or air. 
  • Most commercial flights land in Bella Bella or Bella Coola and from there Ocean Falls is accessed by boat. However, some private seaplanes can be hired to fly into Ocean Falls during the summer months. 
  • The most popular way of access is by the ferry. The BC Ferries Discovery Coast Passage service runs in the summer between Port Hardy on Vancouver Island and Bella Coola on the BC mainland, making stops at various ports along the way (one being Ocean Falls). 
  • The ferry terminal in Ocean Falls was recently upgraded to accommodate the Northern Sea Wolf, the new BC Ferries vessel that sails the Discovery Coast Passage.

History of, and Connections with, First Nations
Heiltsuk Nation (Haíɫzaqv)

  • Population: 2,414
  • The Haíɫzaqv territory encompasses 16,658 square kilometres of land, and extensive nearshore and offshore waters in an area that has only recently come to be known as the Central Coast of B.C.
  • The Haíɫzaqv practice a system of governance based on their ǧvi̓ḷás (traditional laws) that have been upheld by their Hereditary Chiefs since time immemorial through to the present day. The Haíɫzaqv governing body is comprised of an elected Chief & Council, who make decisions in collaboration with the Yíṃás (hereditary Chiefs).
  • For the past decade the Haíɫzaqv, along with other coastal First Nations, have strengthened the connections between their community, their environment, and their economy. The Haíɫzaqv remain steadfast in their conviction that the environment shouldn’t be sacrificed to build a healthy coastal economy. [1]
  • Since 2006 the Heiltsuk Economic Development Corporation (HEDC) has existed to manage the economic and business interests of the Heiltsuk. HEDC looks after the key community businesses that include forestry, fisheries management, the Post Office, the food store, the Bella Bella Airport, the local freight company, the liquor store, fuel company and cable services for television and internet. [2] The Heiltsuk also recently purchased the Shearwater Resort and Marina. The Nation will continue to operate the resort for guests, and a local marina that provides infrastructure and support to marine businesses and plans to develop more ecotourism.
  • Canada, Heiltsuk, and BC are currently negotiating and implementing comprehensive reconciliation agreements that are outside the treaty process (Heiltsuk is not pursuing treaty as described under the BC Treaty Commission framework).
  • The ‘mṇúxvs Nuáqi – One Mind, One Thought Agreement provides funding to Heiltsuk to carry forward commitments under the 2017 Haíłcístut: Framework Agreement on Reconciliation with BC. This also provides a foundation for implementation of Heiltsuk rights, title and self-government under the 2019 Tuígila Agreement with the provincial and federal governments. 
  • Heiltsuk are taking part in a Coastal First Nations/BC Reconciliation working group (“CFN 2.0”) to recommend ways of enhancing Government to Government relationships and undertaking collaborative initiatives at the regional and local level (e.g. management of parks, resource inventories and research, and, economic development opportunities, revenue access, etc.). This work is being conducted through a separate process from the comprehensive reconciliation table that is advancing Heiltsuk-specific House Post priorities.  
  • Heiltsuk agreements can be found here.

Nuxalk Nation (Nuxalkmc)

  • Population: 1,778[3]
  • Nuxalk ancestral territory is comprised of both land and marine areas, with the land portion totalling about 18,000 square kilometers. 
  • The Nuxalk are governed by both elected and hereditary chiefs. The collective of hereditary chiefs is called Stataltmc and singularly they are called Staltmc. The Indian Act outlines protocols and procedures for elected systems of band government. Hereditary systems of government are specific to Indigenous nations. 
  • The Nuxalk Development Corporation, started in 2011, has several limited partnerships with interests in forestry management, specialty wood products, tourism, multi-use port facilities, non-timber forest products, energy, and construction markets in the heart of the Great Bear Rainforest.[4] 
  • The Nuxalk are not engaged in treaty negotiations. They are a member of Coastal First Nations, an alliance of Nations that represents the interests of eight Nations in the implementation of the North Coast land use plan.  
  • Nuxalk agreements with government can be found here.

Coastal First Nations

  • Coastal First Nations is a unique alliance of eight Nations living on British Columbia’s North and Central Coast and Haida Gwaii.  Each Nation has its own distinct culture, governance, and territory. 
  • Members include: Wuikinuxv, Heiltsuk, Kitasoo/Xai’xais, Nuxalk, Gitga’at, Gitxaala, Metlakatla, and Council of the Haida Nation (which includes Old Massett Village Council and Skidegate Band Council)
  • The traditional territories of its member communities lie in the Great Bear Rainforest –one of the largest temperate coastal rainforest systems left on Earth – and on the coastal shores of their traditional waters.
  • By the end of the 1990s, forest and ocean resources of the Great Bear were being rapidly depleted by heavy industrial logging and commercial fishing. The Great Bear Initiative was envisioned to assert First Nations leadership in creating a new conservation-based economy in our Traditional Territories.
  • Coastal First Nations are leading a strategic and forward-looking path to its members’ future, partnering with government, industry, and other groups to develop non-traditional economic sectors such as: renewable energy; carbon credits; eco-system-based forestry management; ecotourism; non-timber forest products; shellfish aquaculture; and commercial shipping.[5]

[1] https://www.heiltsuknation.ca/
[2] https://www.heiltsukdevco.com/
[3] https://fnp-ppn.aadnc-aandc.gc.ca/fnp/Main/Search/FNRegPopulation.aspx?BAND_NUMBER=539&lang=eng
[4] http://www.nndc.ca/
[5 ]https://coastalfirstnations.ca/