'Tired of the disrespect', Snuneymuxw chief launches new strategy

Tue. Nov. 6/12
Nanaimo Daily News
Tamara Cunningham

Failed talks over the privatization of Nanaimo's marina is the "last straw" for Snuneymuxw Chief Doug White, who says his band will now fight to have their legal rights recognized.

White announced this week the Snuneymuxw First Nation is launching a new multi-pronged strategy geared at enforcing land claim rights and the remediation of the Nanaimo River Estuary, which he says has been damaged by log booms and poor eco-management.

The move will involve lawsuits, environmental studies and a new harbour and estuary stewardship plan.

According to White, the band is still deciding how the new approach will roll out, but says any initial action will focus on the Nanaimo Port Authority and failed discussions around the marina redevelopment project.

He claims the band should have been made a key decision-maker in the marina development pro-cess, as the harbour was once a Snuneymuxw winter village.

Instead the NPA invited the First Nation to the table to consult - a blatant disregard for Douglas Treaty rights that recognize the band's title to village sites and fisheries, the chief said.

"I am just tired of it. Tired of the disrespect," White said. "There's this pattern of behaviour (from the province and the NPA) that the Snun-eymuxw doesn't matter. Our treaty doesn't matter . . . and this can no longer be allowed to continue."

Port Authority chairman Bob Bennie is baffled by the recent push-back against the NPA. As of last week, the band was still involved in "amicable" discussions about the marina redevelopment project with the NPA and Pacific Marina Group, he said.

"There are things we disagree with and that's what we are working through," Bennie said. "I am not sure what triggered this."

The Snuneymuxw have previously demanded better acknowledgement of their rights and threatened legal action. They delayed construction of the $24-million cruise ship terminal several years ago over environmental and land concerns. Earlier this year, White said they were prepared to launch court action against the City of Nanaimo and Harmac over a potential water-sharing deal.