PRESS RELEASE: Snuneymuxw Concerns about Port Drive Master Plan
We have become aware from public reports that the Nanaimo City Council is examining a draft Port Drive Master Plan in principle and proceeding toward consultation of a final plan. We understand this plan includes lands along the waterfront of downtown Nanaimo.
We wish to be clear that we do not think it is appropriate or proper for the City of Nanaimo to take any steps regarding the dedication of these lands for the purposes of an Ocean Discovery Centre or other purpose at this time.
The lands in question are part of the Aboriginal title lands of the Snuneymuxw First Nation and form part of our main winter village site protected by our Treaty of 1854. Decisions regarding the future of these lands cannot be made without Snuneymuxw consent, achieved through Snuneymuxw's decision-making processes which apply Snuneymuxw laws. Further, these lands were unlawfully alienated from Snuneymuxw in violation of our treaty - a matter which has not been redressed or resolved in any way. The City should not be taking any steps to perpetuate this unlawful alienation and the harms and liabilities that flow from it.
For multiple years, Snuneymuxw has been clear with the City that a joint set of understandings must be reached through a joint decision-making process related to these lands. The City, to date, has not taken this step. In 2013 it pursued a Downtown Waterfront Initiative that we made clear at the time was not an appropriate forum and process for joint decision-making with Snuneymuxw. Since that time, we have continued to push for a proper co-operative process. Most recently, in the lead up to the City of Nanaimo pursuing its vision of an event centre we outlined in multiple meetings the elements of such a process. While we were hopeful the process would move forward, the City stopped pursuing it with us. The challenge of getting a proper process in place has been further delayed by the City's unfortunate decision to release confidential, without prejudice materials regarding our relationship to the public in August without permission from Snuneymuxw.
All of this also arises against a backdrop of the City having decided to buy the northern part of the Wellcox lands - which are subject of the Port Drive Master Plan - in 2014 in a unilateral matter without including Snuneymuxw. This occurred when the City had clear notice and understanding of Snuneymuxw's connection and interest in re acquiring these lands. No steps should be taken today that would further perpetuate a pattern of unilateralism.
For all of these reasons, it would be premature and not appropriate at this time to approve the master plan in principle or be facilitating the development of the Ocean Discovery Centre. More specifically, in relation to any proposed Ocean Discovery Centre, Snuneymuxw has been trying to meet with the proponents of this project - and will be doing so. The delay in meeting has been for scheduling reasons.
We live in a country and a province where governments have confirmed that relations must be based on the recognition of rights, the implementation of treaties, and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The City of Nanaimo must act in a way that is aligned with these basic and fundamental directions in which our society is moving.
Douglas J. C. White II Acting Chief