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Urban Commitments to Reconciliation

New trust lets Vancouver Island residents donate percentage of property value to First Nations projects

September 30, 2023

Donations will go directly to participating First Nations and their projects

Canadian currency is pictured in Vancouver, B.C.
Residents in the Capital Regional District can now direct a percentage of their property value to a non-profit trust that benefits the First Nations whose territories those homes and businesses are on. (Peter Scobie/CBC)

CBC Indigenous: It’s a small percentage with significant meaning for Chief Abraham Pelkey of the Tsawout First Nation.

Pelkey leads one of 10 nations on Vancouver Island who are starting to receive money from the South Island Reciprocity Trust, to which residents in the Capital Regional District can voluntarily donate a fraction of their property value.

The payments, usually about one per cent of the assessed value of a home or business, are tax deductible and go directly to participating nations who can use the funds for their own projects and initiatives.

“Money is money but you are going to make a great impact for the 10 nations who are signed up,” said Pelkey, speaking Thursday on CBC’s On The Island.  “It’s very positive for our future.”

Pelkey, a trustee on behalf of his nation, says the Tsawout Nation could potentially use the money to fund travel to cultural events such as the Tribal Canoe Journey, an annual trans-national Indigenous voyage and gathering that brings together communities across the Pacific Northwest, as well infrastructure needs on Tsawout territory.

“It has the potential to support significant nation-led initiatives contributing and enhancing our well-being,” said Pelkey.

The trust was established in June by the non-profit Reciprocity Trusts Society, making this the first year that residents can contribute funds, which is done by visiting

‘Something tangible that I could really contribute to’

Ken Josephson, who lives in View Royal, says he was more than happy to contribute.

Josephson works as a cartographer in the geography department at the University of Victoria and, having worked on projects supporting place-naming in Indigenous languages, he was looking for other concrete ways to give back to First Nations communities. “I was thrilled to see that there was something tangible that I could really contribute to,” he said. “So I just jumped on it.”

Josephson said his property is valued at around $800,000 and the trust’s website suggested a payment of $800 based on that assessment. He said he’s made that donation, and plans to do so annually. He lives on Songhees Nation territory, which is also a beneficiary nation of the trust.

Making that payment, said Josephson, was part of his own journey of education and awareness. “I am just going through this process of decolonizing myself. I’m 68 years old and didn’t know a whole lot about what First Nations have gone through over the last 150 to 200 years and I guess I’ve come to this point of not knowing where I belong and what my place is here,” he said.

He said he feels blessed to be able to support financially and hopes more people, and potentially other levels of government will join him, as regular trust contributors. “It’s humbling to see what powerful nations who have been here for thousands of years are doing in spite of oppression,” said Josephson.

A complete list of beneficiary nations is available on the trust’s website.

Reciprocity trusts are also currently being set up for the Lower Mainland and the Central and East Kootenay Regional Districts, and residents of those regions can look for status updates on the website as well.

With files from On The Island