On Nov. 27, Parliament formally recognized Quebecers as a “nation united within Canada.” This was hailed, generally, as a good thing because it usurped a Bloc Quebecois motion that was pending and found support from all parties, thus limiting further debate over Quebec’s unique status within Canada. It was another great Canadian solution, allowing everyone to apply their own interpretation to a motion that begs for further explanation.
Closer to home, there may be some debate brewing over First Nations’ unique status within B.C., or at least within the Sea to Sky corridor.
Premier Gordon Campbell has travelled a long way on First Nations issues during his five-plus years in office. From a controversial referendum on treaty negotiations in 2002 he has become the first premier in B.C.’s history to openly advocate for First Nations’ rights. He was an architect of and has been a strong supporter of the Kelowna Accord, which was intended to help all First Nations across the country. It was negotiated with the previous Liberal government in Ottawa but has been shelved by the Conservatives. As well, in an effort parallel to the exhausting treaty process, Campbell has championed deals that have provided land and in some cases specific rights to individual First Nations in B.C. These efforts have been aimed at advancing the treaty process and providing First Nations with the tools to determine their own future.
And among the First Nations that are seizing the opportunity to determine their own futures are the Squamish and, to some extent, the Lil’wat Nations. The Squamish Nation has been particularly active. The Squamish have partnered with Larco to develop a successful shopping mall next to West Vancouver’s Park Royal. Park Royal itself and the Greater Vancouver Sewage Plant are on land leased from the First Nation. The Squamish are also partnering with Concord Pacific to develop housing on land at Porteau Cove. They did have a deal with Ledcor to assume control of the proposed Ashlu run-of-river hydro project, although that development is currently on hold. The Squamish will also play a role in the Garibaldi at Squamish resort, if that project gets going. And the Squamish and Lil’wat are partners in the cultural centre that is taking shape, however slowly, in Whistler.
One of the catalysts to this activity is a growing population of young people under the age of 20. Another is the 2010 Olympics. The Squamish and the Lil’wat were included in the Olympic bid from the start and, along with the Musqueam and Tsleil-Waututh, are active partners in planning and hosting the Games. In fact, it will be argued by some that the First Nations’ involvement in the Olympic bid was crucial to Vancouver’s narrow victory over Pyeongchang, South Korea when the IOC awarded the 2010 Games in 2003.