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First Nations want Olympic benefits like other partners



Leaked document ‘not worth the paper it is printed on’

The Squamish and Lil’wat First nations are negotiating hard with the provincial government and the 2010 Bid Corporation to get the same types of opportunities for participation in the Winter Olympic Games as they see other communities being offered.

Should Vancouver win it will get millions of dollars in new venues and perhaps billions in economic spin-offs.

Whistler would also get millions worth of upgrades and venues, and millions toward employee restricted housing.

The resort is also negotiating with the province for financial tools and an expanded municipal boundary. It has already been promised a 300-acre parcel of land in the Callaghan Valley as a community land bank from the province.

"All we have talked about is getting the kind of benefits for our membership that others will get for the long term use of their descendants," said chief Gibby Jacob of the Squamish Nation.

"There is no difference."

Jacob was reacting to an article which appeared in the Province newspaper earlier this week.

It quoted a confidential draft document, apparently drafted by the provincial government, which said $5 to $10 million was being put aside to deal with Squamish and Lil’wat issues.

That sum was to be matched by the federal government.

This was news to Lyle Leo, business development director for the Mount Currie Nation.

"We haven’t had any discussions about setting aside $5 to $10 million and I would tell anyone that if a proponent is coming into our territory and looking to generate $10 billion post Games then I would be an ignorant man to settle for $5 million," said Leo.

"So whatever this package was that the Province got hold of it is so preliminary that it is not worth the paper it is printed on."

The Squamish and Lil’wat Nations both claim territory in the Callaghan Valley, the proposed site of the Nordic event centre for the 2010 Winter Games.

While both Jacob and Leo were reticent to share details of their discussions with the Bid Corporation and the government they did say that housing, and post Games revenue sources were being looked at as part of a compensation and benefits package for use of the territory.

Leo said housing is a big issue for Mount Currie and if the 2010 Games used quality temporary accommodation his band would be investigating how they could get that housing for the Lil’wat people.

There are over 900 people on the housing wait list today in the Squamish Nation, so any access to housing the Games could bring would be welcomed, said Jacob.

But the details are not worked out yet.

Placing a public golf course in the Callaghan has long been discussed as well.

Jacob said this venture and the placement of a hotel and/or campsite near the venue site are all part of the brainstorming that has been going on.

But, he said: "There is nothing imminent on any of that."

He was also upset that Whistler’s First Nations cultural centre was included as part of the Olympic discussion in the draft document.

The centre has already received first reading from the municipality and funding announcements were made for that some time ago.

"The actual commitment for the funding is several months old and wasn’t really tied to the Olympics," he said.

Both Jacob and Leo want a deal in place soon.

"There is no deal yet but we are seeking mutual beneficial opportunities with all other communities," said Leo.

"We want to be included and we don’t want to be standing on the side of the road shaking our hands angrily at the world."