Fear of the Musqueam vs. healthy concern

The recent letter from Chief Ernest Campbell to Richmond council shows that the Musqueam Indian Band is (a) committed to the Garden City Lands agreement and (b) unhappy with being forced to accept it. It strikes me as one more astute business move by the Musqueam and a new cause for concern for Richmond.

The letter may be a step toward claiming damages if the City’s future actions as owner throw any doubt on whether it has acted in good faith. That’s no reason to scuttle the agreement, but it is a reason for the City to be more careful than ever to act with good faith.

“Pave Garden City” members of Richmond council used to constantly warn the citizens to fear the Musqueam. But that was when Musqueam legal action was the supposed reason for having to keep going toward the worst effects of bad agreements. That fear-mongering should never have happened, and we should not bring it back. However, it would be healthy to be a little concerned and do the right thing that would also eliminate the basis for concern.

That right thing would be to confirm the City’s commitment to the Garden City Lands in the ALR. The thinking behind that is explained in the earlier post titled “Integrity and the referendum ploy.”

All the excerpts below are complete paragraphs from Chief Campbell’s letter. I’ve used red for the parts that seem to position the first nation for future legal action.

Excerpts from letter of March 16, 2010, from Chief Ernest Campbell to Richmond council:

We also confirm our desire to have a good relationship with the City despite the loss caused to the Band’s interest in the Garden City Lands by having to reluctantly accept the City’s Offer to buy the Lands on January 19, 2010. Please note we were forced to accept the Offer and suffer such loss since the City’s decision not to honour the MOU and the PSA gave us gave us [sic] no choice. As we noted in our letter of November 13, 2009, the City’s Offer was a wholesale departure from the development project and process described in those agreements and was certainly not our preference.

However, we wish the City to note our concerns that some members of the City Council have made statements as quoted in the press that we feel compelled to correct. Councillor Bill McNulty was reported in the Globe and Mail of March 10, 2010 as saying that “This is a fair deal. We’re happy and (Musqueam are) happy the agreement was made.” We do not agree with these assessments. Please note that it is not proper for members of the City to purport to speak on our behalf. We are well able to do so ourselves. In the Richmond News of March 12, Councillor Steves is quoted as saying: “The firm offer we made to the Musqueam was done after verbal discussions between a negotiator hired by the city and their negotiator…Where we wanted to start too low for them and where they wanted us to go was too high for us.” That statement is simply not correct. The City’s Offer made on October 15, 2010 [sic] was unsolicited and a clear departure from the MOU that we expected the City to honour. Finally, Councillor Evalina [sic] Halsey-Brandt is quoted in the Province of March 12 as saying that the City’s opening offer was “immediately” accepted by the Band. In fact, the City’s Offer of October 15, 2009 was not accepted until January 19, 2010 after much consideration by the Band Council. No counter-offer was made—not because the Offer was considered fair but because the Band Council received legal advice that a counter-offer would revoke the City’s Offer. Given the obvious internal disagreement among the members of the City Council, we could not run the risk that the City would reject the counter-offer and we would then be back in the state of uncertainty, and ever increasing costs, that we had been in for the prior year since the City elections. Again, we point out that the City’s decision to “formulate its position” left us no choice.

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