Chief Gordon Planes, foreground, celebrated the grand opening of the T’Sou-ke First Nation Petro Canada and Tim Hortons development. The businesses are part of the First Nation’s economic development plan. A traditional mural celebrating nature can be seen in the background. (Tim Collins/Sooke News Mirror)

T’Sou-ke First Nation open Sooke’s first Tim Hortons

New restaurant is first phase of a larger development

Chief Gordon Planes was on hand Thursday morning to perform the official ribbon cutting for Sooke’s first Tim Hortons restaurant.

Planes was joined by Rose Dumont and Allan Planes of the T’Sou-ke tribal council, as well as tribal elders, First Nations members, Sooke council and a host of supporters to celebrate the first phase of an economic development initiative that the chief said would provide a long-lasting footprint of economic development and benefit for the T’Sou-ke Nation.

RELATED: Initial plans had to overcome hurdles

“We’re doing this for our babies … for the future. If you always keep in mind that what you’re doing, you’re doing for your babies, then you can’t go far wrong,” Planes said.

The development was only made possible through the adoption of the T’Sou-ke Nation Land Code, a move that released the T’Sou-ke from land-use regulations imposed by the Indian Act.

Bonnie Arden, the resource technician for the First Nations Land Management Resource Centre, reiterated the sentiment, saying the adoption of the land code allowed the T’Sou-ke to resume jurisdiction of its lands and resources without outside government interference.

It replaced 44 sections of the Indian Act and really made all of this possible. Without it, this project would have taken many more years, if it happened at all,” Arden said.

Planes also gave credit to Jeffrey Frank, the project manager for the Tim Hortons and Petro Canada development.

“Without Jeffery, we never would have been able to get to where we are today,” Planes said.

But Frank was equally effusive in his praise for the T’Sou-ke Nation council, noting that of all the First Nations that he has worked with, none were more efficient in their approach than the T’Sou-ke.

“They were able to make decisions very quickly. Now, the next order of business is to continue the development on the remainder of the site,” Frank said.

Although he didn’t have definite plans for what would go on the adjacent lands, he said now that the initial phase has been completed, his phone has already started to ring.

“We’ve had interest expressed by a hotel chain, a financial institution, and others, all of which are excited to be a part of our development here,” Frank said.

He noted the delays in the initial phase of the construction were largely due to the need to extend roads, power, water and general infrastructure to the properties.

“There was a fair amount of fist-pounding and door-knocking that took place to get it done, but once that happened, the rest came reasonably quickly,” Frank said.

A unique feature of the new Tim Horton’s and Petro Canada building is a large mural painted on the side and back of the building. The mural, painted by Natasha and Shelley Davies of the T’Sou-ke First Nation, features great orcas, seals and other wildlife in recognition of the First Nation’s connection with the land and its wildlife.

The gas station and restaurant are located on part of an eight-hectare parcel of land between Saseenos elementary and Edward Milne community schools. The initial plans for the development were first announced in February 2016 but faced a series of hurdles that delayed the initial 2017 completion date.

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