Unfortunate staff report—response 2

Background

This is the second post in response to an unfortunate City of Richmond “staff report” dated Nov. 12, 2008, that will be the subject of future City of Richmond council meetings. (Response 1 in a series of at least four responses appears a couple of posts further down on this page.)

Note: While the report to guide Richmond council is officially from staff, it is part of a project centred on the application to exclude the Garden City Lands from B.C.’s Agricultural Land Reserve. Richmond is the figurehead applicant on behalf of Canada Lands Company CLC Ltd., and Randy Fasan of CLC is the project manager. Therefore I consider that CLC is involved in the report along with City staff.


City’s jurisdiction in jeopardy?

In this response, I will examine one staff report statement, which elaborates on an earlier one that the City’s “regulatory jurisdiction is in jeopardy” (p. 2).

The City has regulatory control over the land use and will be able to levy property tax. Should the Musqueam gain ownership of the lands through means other than the MOU, it may be challenging to achieve municipal regulations and processes. (p. 3)

For the sake of analysis, we’ll assume that the Musqueam Indian Band may somehow gain ownership of all of the Garden City Lands. How could that occur?

First, it could occur through a land claim or the treaty process. However, at the Garden City Lands Public Hearings in March 2008, lawyer Keith Clarke advised the City that “the aboriginal issues are actually a bit of a red herring” (Day 1 transcript, p. 137). He went on to advise, “don’t try to consider this proposal through some fuzzy lens of aboriginal title” (p. 140).

Second, it could occur through purchase. However, Keith Clarke pointed out that an aboriginal group can’t just declare land to be a reserve. Since the federal government wouldn’t have any reason to create a reserve on the Garden City Lands, that isn’t going to happen. If the Band simply owned the land through purchase, it would be subject to “municipal regulations and processes.”

Furthermore, the Musqueam appear right now to only have a beneficial interest in the lands for the purposes of a joint venture agreement with CLC to develop the Lands. The agreement has been kept hidden, but one would expect it to come to an end if the Lands cannot be developed.

In theory, CLC could still sell the property to the Musqueam. However, it would be subject to ALR regulations and City regulations, including the current A1 (Agricultural) zoning.

Furthermore, CLC’s action would be contrary to the spirit of the MOU. Treating the City so badly would get it blacklisted by pretty much every government at any level anywhere in the country.

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