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First Nations support Mayor Ken Sim's wish to abolish elected park board

Letter: "We confirm that the [Musqueam, Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh] Nations support the city's initiative to amend the Vancouver Charter"
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Musqueam Chief Wayne Sparrow along with Tsleil-Waututh Chief Jen Thomas and Wilson Williams of the Squamish Nation at Mayor Ken Sim's recent "state of the city" address at the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade.

Mayor Ken Sim’s office released a letter Monday from the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations that indicates their support for the proposed abolition of the elected Vancouver park board.

The March 1 letter says the three nations support the amendments to the Vancouver Charter that Sim and his ABC Vancouver councillors are seeking via the provincial government to bring parks and recreation under the control of city council.

“First, we confirm that the MST Nations support the city's initiative to amend the Vancouver Charter in the manner described above,” the letter states.

“In that regard, we have asked the MST technical team to meet with your officials to immediately begin work on the proposed amendments, together with any consequential and related amendments that may be required to the Community Charter, Local Government Act and other provincial legislation.”

Modernize Vancouver Charter

The letter also emphasizes the nations want to secure the “written commitment” from the city and provincial government to begin a joint initiative to modernize the Vancouver Charter — and related legislation — to make it consistent with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the requirements of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act.

“We envision that work could start after we complete our work to amend the Vancouver Charter in the manner described above,” said the letter, which is signed by Musqueam Chief Wayne Sparrow, Squamish chairperson Khelsilem and Tsleil-Waututh Chief Jen Thomas.

The letter is addressed to the mayor, B.C.’s Municipal Affairs Minister Anne Kang and Murray Rankin, who is Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation.

It was King’s ministry that made it clear to Sim in a Dec. 14 statement that “a number of items” had to be addressed for government to consider Charter amendments.

Those items included questions over land ownership, the future of workers at the park board and consultation with the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh nations.

Sim said in a news release Monday that he was “grateful” for the nations’ “invaluable support and continued partnership.” The release said the nations’ support marks a “significant stride” to amending the Charter.

'Top of mind for handful of people'

Regarding the nations’ request for a written commitment to begin a joint initiative to modernize the Charter, the news release said “the city acknowledges this vital work and commits to long-term collaboration with Musqueam Indian Band, Squamish Nation and Tsleil-Waututh Nation.”

The provincial government has not indicated if or when it will approve the amendments, with Premier David Eby telling reporters in January that he was aware the future of the park board was "top of mind for a handful of people" in Vancouver.

Eby said the proposed abolition of the elected park board was not the number one priority for the provincial government. He said government is focused on tackling housing, cost-of-living, health care and ensuring the province's economy is strong.

"That said, we're working closely with the City of Vancouver because we do understand this is something that they want to bring forward," the premier said.

"We've been clear with them about what needs to be in place for it to be on the legislative agenda. I understand they're working hard to achieve those deliverables, and I look forward to hearing from them when they're ready to go."

Independent legal advice

Meanwhile, the three former ABC Vancouver commissioners — Laura Christensen, Scott Jensen and Brennan Bastyovanszky — continue to push back against Sim’s move to abolish the elected board.

The trio has been joined by Green Party commissioner Tom Digby and many former park commissioners and others in a campaign to keep the elected board. City councillors Christine Boyle, Pete Fry and Adriane Carr held a public meeting Feb. 1 to mobilize people opposed to the board’s demise.

Also in February, Christensen, Jensen, Bastyovanszky and Digby were successful in a vote to unlock $20,000 to seek independent legal advice on whether the board would be successful in quashing Sim’s move to abolish the board.

mhowell@glaciermedia.ca

X/@Howellings

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