Your statement raises the concern that the Government of Canada has prejudged these issues and does not intend to properly discharge their duties under the relevant legislation.
Nature of the Development
You state that: “We understand that Sen̓áḵw will foster the development of 6,000 affordable rental units whilst ensuring accessible community space; roughly 80 per cent of the land will be reserved for parks and community space. These decisions have been made in consultation with the City of Vancouver and local community residents. “
Repeating this sort of “development speak” will not make it true and does a disservice to your constituents. The Squamish Nation has never said that they were building affordable housing. They have consistently said that they were building market rental units and some leasehold units for sale. Initially they said there would be some small number of below market units made available to Squamish Nation members, and most recently they have said there will be ~ 700 affordable units (likely a CMHC requirement)—out of a total of 6000. None of this is confirmed, as they have also recently said that the mix of rental and sale may be adjusted towards sale, as dictated by rental market conditions.
As to the 80% of the land available for parks and community space I challenge you to show us where that is on the design drawings. Consider that this development will be by far the most dense in Canada and there are no areas marked as separate park lands on the plans. Note that areas used for roads, entrance and service drives, sidewalks, parking and plaza space between buildings do not constitute a park. We acknowledge that there are inevitably spaces between the buildings. Also, there is a large unbuildable area under the bridge apparently designated for community purposes. The number of residents in this small land area could be in the range of 12,000, living in very small units, meaning there will very high demand on public space, some of whom may prefer to enjoy space not under a bridge.
We have not heard of any plans from the Development Partnership to provide lands for actual park, schools or community centres as would be needed for a community of 12,000 people. The developers propose to rely on public lands and services for these needs and, as we understand it, the relevant property taxes which would normally support these public amenities will not be flowing to the governments that are incurring the expenses, in that property taxes if collected will flow to the Squamish Nation.
As to your statement that decisions have been made in consultation with local community residents, I can assure you that has not happened. It is disturbing to have you represent to Vancouver citizens that this consultation occurred. KPRA has been advocating with the City of Vancouver (“COV”) for over a year for community consultation but has been rebuffed and even been advised that COV has no jurisdiction to do so. We have been told that there will be consultation on some issues after the decisions are made and the Service Agreements are agreed to. The Development Partnership made public promises of community consultation but that also did not occur.
You state that “This project represents reconciliation for past actions against the Squamish Nation, who were displaced from that site”, referencing that the Sen̓áḵw site is “a slice of what was once an 80-acre reserve known as Kitsilano Indian Reserve No. 6”.
We do not understand why the Sen̓áḵw development should be construed as reconciliation for this displacement because, as you should know, the claims of the Squamish Nation with respect to that reserve and that displacement were the subject of a law suit brought by the Squamish Nation which was settled in or about 2000. We understand that pursuant to that settlement the Squamish Nation gave up their claims to their former Kitsilano reserve lands and certain other lands in BC in exchange for payment of $92.5 million. As a result of the litigation the current Sen̓áḵw reserve lands were also returned to the Squamish Nation as reserve.
It is therefore our understanding that, as the Squamish Nation has accepted compensation for their claims to their former Kitsilano reserve, including the Vanier Park lands, and in return given up their claims to those lands and for their historical mistreatment in relation to them, those issues should be considered resolved.
A copy of a press report of the settlement is included for your reference. We have initiated a federal access to information request in respect to the actual settlement agreement but, as typical in this case, that has not been forthcoming.
It should also be noted, as reported in the press report, that by settling that claim the government of Canada intended to secure public use of the Kitsilano lands which include Vanier Park.
A more thoughtful approach to reconciliation needs to be taken. It frankly does not make sense to say that reconciliation requires Canada to pay for the lands in question more than once, or that, having paid for them to secure their continued use for the public, they should none the less give them up for the purpose of building a road in order to increase the size of a commercial real estate development.
The Senakw Access Road
This brings us to the access road which is proposed by the Development Partnership to be on and through Vanier Park. As you note, the lands in question are federal lands and leased to the City of Vancouver for parks purposes. The City of Vancouver cannot turn over these lands for use as a commercial development access road without the consent of the lessor (Canada). As discussed above, the Squamish Nation has already received compensation for these lands when they settled their claims to the lands and their historical grievances related to them.
The Development Partnership can place all necessary access roads on their lands without reducing public land. The issue as we understand it is that constructing the access road on park lands allows the size of the development to be increased for the profit/benefit of the Development Partnership. Why would public lands be given up for these purposes? The development is already planned to be unprecedented in density, and totally out of scale with surrounding Vancouver neighbourhoods.
The Development Partnership is planning a development of unprecedented density, that depends on Vancouver for its success but offers little in public amenities relative to its immense size and the thousands of new residents it will house. The immense density of the Sen̓áḵw development means that the Vanier park public lands will be much needed for the purposes for which they were intended—public park use.
We do take your point that primary responsibility for this lies with the City. The City, however, has surprisingly decided not to consult with its constituents on this issue. We continue to attempt to pursue that with them. They have also declined to provide public information about the approach they are taking.
We request Your Assistance
The level of misinformation in your response is substantial. We will be taking active steps to correct this by communicating about it within the community.
If you have any verifiable information that can be provided to us to clarify your statements please provide them. If you wish to prepare a follow-up statement to the community, again let us know.
What we are calling upon you to do at this point is to assist us in connecting to the appropriate government personnel having decision making authority on these issues—on an urgent basis. We request your assistance in providing contact information for issues relating to the Vanier Park lease, and also for the person in ISC responsible for the Sen̓áḵw development, so that community voices can be heard about the local impacts of this development.
I will call you in within 5 days to discuss this further.
for KET (KPRA Executive Team)