Leaders gather in Squamish to discuss Howe Sound area initiatives

Squamish Nation and regional transit updates at the Howe Sound Community Forum

Squamish played host to the leaders, researchers and stakeholders that surround Howe Sound on Oct. 25 at the Cheakamus Centre in Paradise Valley.

"We've certainly been busy with lots of things in our vast territory," Joyce Williams said as she gave the Squamish First Nation's update at the forum.

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On the same day as the forum, teen climate action activist Greta Thunberg was attending a rally in Vancouver. Williams said the Squamish Nation recently declared a climate emergency, and many of its members were at the rally. The Nation council had written a letter to Thunberg, and arranged a private meeting with the activist.

The work on the Nation's environmental management plan and land use plan are on-going. The Nation is also beginning the community engagement plan for the sea-level rise adaptive management strategy, encouraging participation and support from the community. Williams said the work is taking place in North and West Vancouver, working in collaboration with the local municipalities. Williams said the Nation is keeping its members busy with engagement, including with its Housing Authority.

The Nation is also working on creating a study into new headquarters in North Vancouver to centralize their offices.

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MLA Jordan Sturdy, next to MP-elect Patrick Weiler, gives an update to the Sea to Sky representatives gathered. - Keili Bartlett

In MLA Jordan Sturdy's update, he addressed several issues, including B.C.'s effort to table the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) legislation and what's happening with regional transit.

Of UNDRIP, Sturdy said, "It's an enabling piece of legislation... I do reject the idea that we have ignored or minimized First Nations concerns in this region... I'm not sure that a whole lot will really change. Could you imagine doing anything on land-based in the Sea to Sky without consulting, working with, partnering with either Squamish or Lil'wat?"

Sturdy also reiterated that he's a supporter of regional transit in the Sea to Sky.

"We are not in a good place right now. I certainly don't understand the rationale, but the minister has declined to support the funding formula that was unanimously endorsed by local governments from one end of the region to the other that is the most equitable source of revenue to support a regional transit service, and that is a fuel tax levy in the Sea to Sky," he said.

Sturdy said the Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Claire Trevena has said the levy is not sustainable. He agreed that may be true in the long term as the provincial government works to transition away from fossil fuels.

"However it is certainly deemed to be sustainable by the province in Metro Vancouver for TransLink funding. It's sustainable in the Capital Regional District [Victoria] for transit funding," he added.

"Why is it good enough for urban British Columbia and not good enough for rural British Columbia remains a mystery to me. Speaking frankly, I have advocated for this for a long time. I have always felt that this funding formula is the most equitable one."

Sturdy urged those present at the forum to communicate their support of regional transit to the minister.

 

 

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