2011 federal election & the DND Lands, Post 2

Post 1 (below this one) introduced the following question that I will ask at one or more all-candidates meetings, starting with the Delta-Richmond East one on April 19, 2011 at the Coast Tswawwassen Inn at 6 p.m.

My question will be something like this:

If you are the MP when the federal government no longer needs the Department of National Defence Lands in Richmond East for defence purposes, what will you do to ensure that the property will be available for community wellness?

I indicated that success will depend on learning from what happened in related situations where the federal government tried to dispose of land (through its land disposer, Canada Lands Company CLC)—and where the Musqueam Indian Band promptly took steps toward blocking the transfer.

The Band’s interest in the Garden City Lands evolved from the Band’s success in getting the courts to stop the transfer from the federal government to CLC (perhaps for transfer of part of all to the City of Richmond). Four years after the Garden City case, the Band used a similar approach in the Sinclair Centre case, in which the Band did not end up succeeding.

As a property, the Department of National Defence Lands are very similar to what the Garden City Lands were. For instance, the DND Lands are:

  • Federal property
  • Essentially the same area (55–58 hectares)
  • Bounded and buffered on each side by a half mile of arterial road
  • ALR land
  • Lulu Island Bog land
  • Somewhat disturbed but largely unspoiled
  • At risk—and in need of restoration—as sphagnum bog ecosystem
  • In a central city location (east of the Garden City Lands)
  • Desired for community wellness by the Richmond council and community
  • Sure to be also desired by the Band

Nevertheless, my non-lawyer reading of the situation is that the courts would treat the DND Lands more like the Sinclair Centre than the Garden City Lands—provided that the federal government learns from the two cases. That would likely involve local MPs briefing the relevant federal ministers about swift informed action when the situation arises. For a start, the MPs will need to understand why the courts treated Sinclair Centre differently from Garden City. The Aboriginal Law Bulletin (July 2008, pages 2­3) states three distinguishing aspects of Garden City:

  1. The land in question constituted 136 acres in which the Musqueam had proven a unique importance.
  2. The use of the land could have changed upon disposition (making the unique Musqueam use no longer possible).
  3. Furthermore, Musqueam evidence in Garden City showed that the payment of monetary compensation would not compensate for the loss of the Garden City land.

Why should those three aspects of the Garden City case not apply to the DND Lands?

  1. In my view, the Band later disproved the unique importance of the land in its statement of community value to the Agricultural Land Commission in the 2008 application to exclude the Garden City Lands from the ALR. It appears that the value of the Garden City Lands was in fact not for use of the land by Band members but instead for a source of a large pool of money.
  2. With an appropriate covenant, it can be shown that the DND Lands would be limited to “Conservation and Recreation” uses that conserve and restore the land without limiting its uses if it is ever ceded to the Band (e.g., in an eventual treaty under the Treaty Process).
  3. The Band appears to have shown in the Garden City Lands situation that it was satisfied to receive money in preference to land, as that is what it would have received from the joint venture development that it set out to undertake with Canada Lands Company (CLC) Ltd. and what it did receive from the sale of the property to the City of Richmond.

To understand this better, one also needs to refer to the key Garden City court decision. I’m linking here to a PDF in which I’ve marked key parts in red.

That isn’t the whole story though. Richmond city council has consistently shown a strong desire to change the Garden City Lands and DND Lands from federal property to City of Richmond property, but the community has always seemed a whole lot less concerned about whose empire the properties are in. From a community standpoint, federal ownership for local value could be fine, and people have suggested appropriate federal program uses, as well as the idea of a federal lease to the city at one-dollar a year, just like the federal lease of Stanley Park to the City of Vancouver. On the basis of her stated intent, Richmond MP Alice Wong seems to have been working toward that with the Garden City Lands.

What this all means is that there are at least two promising alternatives that the community, Richmond council, and the local MPs need to be familiar with:

  • Transfer ownership of the DND Lands from the federal government in a way that requires the level of consultation and accommodation required in the Sinclair Centre case, not the much more demanding Garden City case.
  • Or establish a federal use for the DND Lands area that provides suitable community wellness.

If they remain thoroughly informed, the MPs can then take swift action to enable community use of the DND Lands in one way or another as soon as the federal government indicates any interest in ending the National Defence program use.

For a start, we need all candidates for Member of Parliament in the Richmond riding and Delta-Richmond East riding to become sufficiently informed. After I ask the key question at all-candiates meetings, I will report on the results on this blog and probably in the local newspapers.


1 Comment »

  1. 1

    Quebec Premier Jean Charest wants to see all federal land in Canada transferred to the Canada Lands Company, according to the Internet document “Let the Future Begin-1997”, and I quote: “Today, the Government of Canada owns in excess of $40 billion in real estate…The Canada Lands Company was created to dispose of federal real estate assets…As an early part of our restructuring initiative, all remaining federal real estate assets will be transferred to the Canada Lands Company…” The economic think tank called the Fraser Institute is also recommending the privatization or transfer of federal land; the most egregious example being: turn over every federal park in B.C., including Pacific Rim Park, to the Province of British Columbia. (Google: “Introduction When A Country”-Advanced Search – Exact words “Introduction When a Country). The Fraser Institute recommendes that all DND, CBC, Transport Canada, Canada Post,Forestry Canada etc. property in B.C. be declared “surplus” and sold by the federal government. If all federal property is sold, MY Canada will no longer exist: the Dominion of Canada will become “The Canadian Balkans” –a loosely-connected coalition of provinces and territories separated from each other by metaphorical firewalls. The national anthem words “From far and wide, O Canada..” will have to be changed; and people will identify themselves as Ontarians, or Albertans, or British Columbians, etc. not as CANADIANS. The devolution of federal property (National Parks, Canada Post, CBC, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Veterans land, Transport Canada, etc.) will eventually destroy Canadian unity, Canadian sovereignty, and nationalistic pride.United we stand, divided we fall.

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