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Squamish Nation continues push for seat on Vancouver Police Board

Letter to B.C. government: "We respectfully request the immediate appointment of a Squamish Nation representative to this important body."
Sxwíxwtn-Wilson Williams, spokesperson and councillor for the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Nation, says the provincial government has yet to respond to a letter requesting a seat on the Vancouver Police Board.

The Vancouver Police Board continues to operate with three vacancies despite a request from the Squamish Nation for the “immediate appointment” of one of its members to the government-appointed body.

The nation sent a letter Feb. 27 to provincial ministers Mike Farnworth and Katrine Conroy outlining their reasons for having a representative on a board that currently has no representation from First Nations.

“By including a Squamish Nation member on the Vancouver Police Board, the Province would demonstrate its commitment to the development and implementation of comprehensive policing reforms aimed at eradicating systemic biases and racism,” said the letter, obtained by Glacier Media.

The Nation said the provincial government has a unique opportunity to demonstrate its dedication to the principles outlined in its support for the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as a framework for reconciliation.

“The DRIPA Action Plan acknowledges the existence of systemic racism and discrimination against Indigenous Peoples and underscores the need for substantial reforms to address these deep-seated biases,” the letter said.

'Transformative change'

The Nation confirmed this week that the letter was sent but has yet to receive a response from government. The letter also copied Murray Rankin, B.C.’s Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, and Vancouver city council.

Sxwíxwtn-Wilson Williams, spokesperson and councillor for the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Nation, said in an emailed statement Wednesday that representation would be “in accordance with the province’s commitment to uphold the principles and tenets of DRIPA, and its commitment to create a path forward that respects the human rights of Indigenous Peoples.” 

Added Williams: “We believe that a Squamish Nation member is well-suited to fill this vacancy and support the ongoing work our governments can do together in bringing about real and transformative change to policing in the City of Vancouver.”

Williams made his case for one of the nation’s members to be appointed to the board in a Feb. 13 story posted by Glacier Media. At the time, the Tsleil-Waututh Nation also indicated its desire to have one of its members appointed to the police board.

Musqueam Indian Band

The Musqueam Indian Band, meanwhile, is currently in discussions with government about an appointment. Glacier Media left email and phone messages with Musqueam officials in February but has yet to receive a response.

The Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General did not answer questions about the letter from the Squamish Nation when asked by Glacier Media, repeating an earlier statement that read:

“The Ministry is currently working with the Musqueam Indian Band to appoint a representative to the Vancouver Police Board in accordance with the police service agreement between Musqueam and the Vancouver Police Department.”

The Musqueam has previously had at least two of its members on the board in former chief Wendy John and her son, Wade Grant. Jerry Adams of Nisga’a Nation and Claire Marshall of the Millbrook First Nation have also served on the board.

UNDRIP strategy

The three local nations’ desire to have members appointed to the board is not a sudden request but one outlined in Vancouver’s UNDRIP strategy, which council approved in 2022 after an elaborate ceremony at the Museum of Vancouver.

The provincial government approves all police board member appointments, except for one by city council; the current city appointee is Lorraine Lowe, longtime executive director of the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden, who will soon join the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre Society as its executive director.

The other board members are finance expert Frank Chong, lawyer Allan Black, business leader Comfort Sakoma-Fadugba and Patricia Barnes, executive director of the Hastings-Sunrise business improvement association.

The police board’s next scheduled public meeting is April 25 at the Cambie Street precinct of the Vancouver Police Department.

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