Vancouver Park Board chair proposes co-management of parks with First Nations

·3 min read
Vancouver Park Board chair Stuart Mackinnon is calling for co-management of city parkland within the traditional territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh nations. (Anne-Julie Têtu/Radio-Canada - image credit)
Vancouver Park Board chair Stuart Mackinnon is calling for co-management of city parkland within the traditional territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh nations. (Anne-Julie Têtu/Radio-Canada - image credit)

A motion calling for the co-management of parks that fall within the traditional territories of Vancouver's First Nations communities will be debated at a park board meeting later this month.

Park board chair Stuart Mackinnon, who is proposing the motion, does not specify how parkland on Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh land would be co-managed but says it's overdue by about 300 years.

"I think it's important as we recognize reconciliation in this country, that the land Vancouver sits on was occupied land," said Mackinnon.

"We should have discussions with them on how they see the land, how they view the land use, and what we as settlers can learn from the land."

Margaret Gallagher/CBC
Margaret Gallagher/CBC

'A great step' says Squamish Nation

Co-management is a move in the right direction for inclusion and taking action on reconciliation, says Squamish First Nations councillor and spokesperson Sxwíxwtn (Wilson Williams).

"This is a great step in recognizing and righting the wrongs of the past," Williams said on the CBC's The Early Edition.

He says while there is still a long way to go, the motion helps build better relationships with the Vancouver Park Board.

Currently, having a say in land use or resource management in Vancouver parks is difficult, Williams says.

"If it's not recognized as our traditional territory or reserve lands. It's very challenging, but consultation and collaboration has been [moving ahead] in recent years."

Squamish Nation
Squamish Nation

The motion states the park board has accepted the calls to action within the Truth and Reconciliation Report of Canada, which include repudiating concepts used to justify European sovereignty over Indigenous peoples and lands.

In the spirit of reconciliation, Williams says, it's important to share history and identity through an Indigenous lens that is connected to the city's parks.

"When I see reconciliation, we're in a time of acceptance of the dark history, but also, you know, how we've grown together," he said.

He says not only is there value in connecting to culture and tradition but also in sharing the language, legends, and stories attached to the land.

Co-management, he says, would also allow more insight from elders and knowledge keepers.

"Our Indigenous communities have our arms open and welcome. The relationship building is to build a brighter future for Vancouver."

City of Vancouver
City of Vancouver

Mackinnon says the motion is an extension of the park board's continuing efforts to consult Indigenous communities, which also include a naming policy for parks and beaches and the formation in 2014 of the Stanley Park Intergovernmental Group to develop a long-term plan for Stanley Park, along with Vancouver's First Nations.

Park board staff are also in the final stages of developing the first inventory and analysis report on Stanley Park.

When it's done, Emily Dunlop, the board's senior planner, says the public will have access to decades worth of data, research and analysis on the park, its history and the impacts on Indigenous communities.

The park board is also consulting First Nations to open up Canyon Creek from a culvert underneath northwest Marine Drive and Spanish Banks West Parking Lot A before it flows into English Bay.

The project will liberate the creek from the pipe, essentially unburying it to provide a new habitat for birds and aquatic species, according to a park board summary of the project.

The co-management motion is set to be debated Jan. 24.

City of Vancouver
City of Vancouver
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