Watching the news this morning and seeing the determined Musqueam and their supporters blocking off Arthur Laing Bridge during rush hour in the rain, I was filled with pride and the need to cheer "yes!" Go Musqueam, keep elevating the profile and action until you get results!
I have a lot of respect for the Musqueam for standing strong in what they believe. They are a force to be reckoned with and having studied their settlement over the golf course lands, the Bridgeport lands, and the Celtic Shipyards, I know they work hard to get what they feel they are entitled to. More power to them and this should be a strong message to government that you can’t ignore the Musqueam!
I am sure there were a lot of people who were not happy with the chaos during rush hour today, but there are others who understand that this is a problem that the government is not responding to and their anger should be focused on the government, not the Musqueam. I heard a lot of horns honking in support this morning.
The government does have the power under the Heritage Act s. 12 (6)(a) to amend or suspend the permit when information is discovered that was not known at the time of the permit. In this case, the discovery of the remains of two infants and a adult. It has been suspend temporarily, but it can be suspended indefinitely and stop the development. The government has the power so why not use that power to resolve this situation? Why don’t they agree to the Land Swap? Why are they taking so long to respond to something so important and vital to the Musqueam people as letting their ancestors rest? Are they afraid they will be sued by the owners for loss of value and opportunity for this property as the Cline Mining Corp is suing them for loss of opportunity now that the Flathead has a ban on mining? Are they afraid to set a precedent for other First Nations burial sites?
Precedent for other First Nations burial sites could be one of the answers as the province intends to build Site C and there are many burial sites they will have to destroy in order to do that. Other developments have and will run into the same problems and they want to let those developments proceed despite burial and other heritage, cultural and spiritual sites.The province in the past have settled with various First Nations and not allowed the same solution for the next situation telling you it was a one off. For example, in the Haida Gwaii Reconciliation Act, a Management Council is established that may set up management areas and within the management area the council may establish policies and standards for the identification and conservation of heritage sites within that area. Unfortunately, this does not include private lands, but it is an example of how the province has worked with a First Nation to deal with these kinds of issues. Why haven't they done the same with all First Nations in BC and worked with FIrst Nations to resolve issues on fee simple lands?
I went to the site one afternoon to support the Musqueam and learn more. I was impressed with the kind of support offered by people driving by honking, dropping by with information or food. I was more impressed when I heard how the whole community was working together to fight for this site. In fact there was to be a pot luck that evening to celebrate the 20 days they had occupied the site making it a real community event. I heard stories of the Mayor of Vancouver driving up on his bike and visiting with the Musqueam and expressing his support. I have been on the Facebook page and see all kinds of people stopping by from many sectors not just the First Nations although political leaders like National Chief Shawn Atleo, Regional Chief Jody Wilson Raybould, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip have attended. People offering prayers and respect for the ancestors that are buried there.
What does it take to get the Premier to respond? The Mediator/facilitator that was appointed does not seem to be making a difference. Being pro-active and offering a land swap does not seem to be making a difference. What will make a difference? The Musqueam will continue to plan their strategy and keep increasing the pressure on the government. Their activities on Tuesday were compelling. Standing respectfully outside a graveyard and asking for the same treatment for their grave sites is powerful messaging. Being outside the Premier’s office to let her know they were there and weren’t going away was a good move. Then moving into downtown Vancouver to help inform the people and garner more support was tactical. What’s next? We’ll keep an eye on the Musqueam for that. They need our help and support. Continue making phone calls and writing letters or e mails to the Premier or Minister Steve Thompson or the MLA in your area. Letters to the Editor, use social media to get the message out. Sign the petition. The Musqueam cannot be ignored, and how much more powerful will the Musqueam be if the public is standing with them. Enough is enough, let’s deal with the issue NOW!