Snuneymuxw extends call to work together

Thu. Feb. 25/16

The Snuneymuxw First Nation extended its hand to Nanaimo city council in a call to work together – and Nanaimo city councillors clasped it.

Snuneymuxw Chief John Wesley and seven councillors stood in front of Nanaimo city council Monday to call for more communication and partnership between the two governments, which they said is critical for the economy and the success of meaningful reconciliation.

The Snuneymuxw council is newly formed, with five councillors sworn in this month. Wesley said there are different thoughts and ways on council, but both he and council decided to put that aside for the best interest of their nation and try to build a relationship with mayor and council “that was serious and a respectful way.”

Councillors Erralyn Thomas and Doug White III both addressed council at the meeting on the need to recognize and respect Douglas treaty rights, of work already accomplished together in the past, and the importance of their relations and communication, including with regards to the Wellcox yard on the south industrial waterfront.

The city, notwithstanding Snuneymuxw working hard to express interest in developing Wellcox and gaining some control over the property, unilaterally bought the northern part of the rail yard without talking to Snuneymuxw, said White, who says it’s become a problem to overcome today.

“We stand here in the greatest respect to share a few of these thoughts with you, a little bit of the history, to show that the Snuneymuxw is here together and that were looking for the willing partner in the City of Nanaimo to find ways to stand together again as we have in the past in real, true reconciliation, recognition and respect,” he said.

Thomas said the relationship between the Snuneymuxw and City of Nanaimo is critical to the economy and that they can be leaders that change lives, strengthen families and provide jobs.

Transactions happening behind closed doors, however, or without the knowledge of the Snuneymuxw knowing its interest in the territories the city is purchasing, operating or thinking about operating, sends a negative signal on a government level “when we’re trying to work together,” according to Thomas, who says change requires a lot of communication, sharing information and meeting. The presentation is a first step, she said.

“We stand before you having our hand out, shoulder to shoulder to work together to shake our hands,” she said.

Wesley told the News Bulletin the new council wanted to start things off right by saying they are willing to meet with everybody. He thinks they fell off track a little bit and need to communicate not only with the city but everyone within the city.

“We sort of were not progressing fast enough in a lot of issues so we want to get those back on track,” he said, later adding that it's about communicating a lot more.

Nanaimo city councillors expressed a desire to work together.

Coun. Gord Fuller said there's so much that can be accomplished if they work together, to benefit both Snuneymuxw and the City of Nanaimo.

Coun. Ian Thorpe said “he quicker we can start to take those steps, the better it is.”

Wesley and his councillors and Nanaimo city politicians shook hands before the Snuneymuxw band council left the meeting.

The door is now open for Nanaimo city council to reciprocate, said Coun. Bill Bestwick, who is confident they will.


by  Tamara Cunningham - Nanaimo News Bulletin