Completing the reconciliation circle

A brilliantly written article by aboriginal issues lawyer Keith Clark of Lang Michener LLP is relevant to the Garden City Lands issue. Mr. Clark, who brought considerable insight to the Garden City Lands public hearings a year ago, later wrote “Why B.C.’s Premier approved the Musqueam Reconciliation Agreement.”

Point by point, the article shows that the BC government’s Musqueam Reconciliation Agreement has only a minimal connection to the disputes that it supposedly settled. Instead, it is an enormous goodwill gesture by the province toward the Musqueam in the hope of reconciliation, the renewal of a friendship.

Mr. Clark concludes, “The ball is now in the Musqueam’s court.” Actually, since the time when he wrote that, June 2008, the Musqueam Indian Band has received many additional millions of dollars in separate agreements, and the provincial government is now planning further province-wide reconciliation provisions.

Perhaps the Musqueam have not had an opportunity for a memorable gesture in return. That situation has now changed because of the need to renegotiate key understandings in “the MOU,” the basic Garden City Lands agreement. The Musqueam appear to hold a 50% beneficial interest in the lands (the right to receive 50% of the profits from sale of the half of the property that is not already promised to Richmond), and certainly they must be part of the consensus on any renegotiated MOU understandings.

As a conciliatory gesture, the Musqueam could support the transfer of the entire Garden City Lands (not just half) to the City for an ALR-compatible park at no more than the fair market value stated in the MOU. Besides $4.77 million for the “Public Lands” half that the City should already be entitled to, that would involve another $4.77 for the “Development Lands” half, the CLC-Musqueam half, for a total of $9.54 million.

That fairness, reciprocating the goodwill that Richmond has shown to the Musqueam and CLC, would reflect well on the Musqueam themselves and on their provincial goverment friend that may have hurt itself politically by going out on a limb for them. It would establish genuine reconciliation with a large community in Richmond and beyond. It would complete the circle of reconciliation.

Of course, the Musqueam have no obligation to complete the circle in that way or any other way. Instead, it would be an act of friendship, and that’s what would be so meaningful.

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