The Leq’á:mel First Nation has officially opened its new Tim Hortons/Esso gas station in Deroche.
During the grand opening ceremony, held on Aug. 2, Darrel McKamey – who holds the economic development portfolio on the Leq’á:mel First Nation council – addressed the dignitaries and guests gathered at the celebration.
“The vision for this site started over 20 years ago back when Leq’á:mel First Nation literally could only look at such an endeavour as a ‘pipe dream’ due to the community’s financial position. Today, two decades later, the community of Leq’á:mel’s hard work, perseverance, and patience has paid off,” McKamey said.
He said the meaning of the business hub is far more than just a service station and restaurant.
“Upstairs is where the Leq’á:mel Development Corporation is housed, where the staff and board works diligently to build an economy with joint ventures, partnerships, and personal business opportunities for Leq’á:mel entrepreneurs.”
The site will employ more than 30 people as hours of operation increase and the Leq’á:mel Development Corporation expands.
“Considering the size of Leq’á:mel and the population of Deroche this is a significant number of jobs, making this business centre one of the largest employers between Hatzic and Harrison Mills,” McKamey said.
In 2015, construction of the project was supposed to begin on a different site, but had to be postponed.
“After performing an archaeological study we uncovered some of our ancestors in their final resting place. We later had our ancestors’ remains carbon dated. The results were astonishing.”
Some of the remains dated back approximately 480 years.
“We had travelled back to the 1530s, just 300 yards from where we stand. So this find obviously put a stop to the work and gave us a positive cause to take a breath and begin to think about what we will do to honour those who are laid to rest here.”
The cost to build the site – including all the fuel infrastructure, civil infrastructure, building envelope, and high-tech equipment – came with a completed price tag nearing approximately $6 million.