Update on the Status of Memorial Park
On behalf of White Rock Council, I would like to update you on the status of the Memorial Park project and reassure you that White Rock Council is committed to completing this important project for our community.
Memorial Park - Background, Public Engagement, First Nation Consultation & Project Status
In 2015, concepts for revitalizing Memorial Park and creating a more inviting community space for the public were completed. This space was planned to better accommodate concerts and other outdoor activities as well as enhance interaction and opportunities with the waterfront.
In 2016, the City reached out to the Province of British Columbia’s Archaeology Branch to inform them of the Memorial Park project and inquire about permitting. The Archaeology Branch informed the City that it did not require a provincial archaeological permit as Memorial Park, owned by the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) railway, is excluded from provincial jurisdiction because it falls under federal jurisdiction.
As for public engagement and consultation for the Memorial Park project, the City held two separate public open houses where anyone who wanted to attend and provide feedback or raise concerns about the project had the opportunity to do so. Further opportunities to provide feedback on the project were possible during the City’s Financial Planning processes where details of the financial implications of the project were made available to the public. The City also conducted an online questionnaire regarding the project which gave the community at large another avenue to participate and raise any concerns.
From a legislative standpoint, municipalities are required under the Community Charter, pursuant to Section 98/99 to produce Annual Reports prior to June 30 of each year. The report includes audited financial statements, a list of tax exemptions, information on municipal services, and City Council’s strategic goals, priorities, and activities. The Annual Report is another avenue where the public is able to provide feedback on various projects and initiatives. For your reference, here is the link to the City of White Rock’s 2016 Annual Report where the City provided information about the Memorial Park project and invited the public to submit their comments and questions regarding the report.
On September 14, 2017, Semiahmoo Council presented a letter at the sod turning event for Memorial Park demanding the City stop the work on the project until dialogue and consultation took place as the Semiahmoo First Nation said that they did not know anything about this project, despite the public consultation process.
Regardless, as a sign of respect for the Semiahmoo First Nation’s concerns, the City chose to delay the work on the Memorial Park project in order for the Nation to have time to review the project and consult with the City.
Below is a quick summary of some of the actions the City has taken to address the Semiahmoo First Nation’s concerns around consultation regarding Memorial Park:
- September 26, 2017: The City’s Acting Director of Engineering and Municipal Operations as well as the Manager of Parks both met with Don Welsh of the Semiahmoo First Nation Archaeology Services and discussed the Memorial Park project and project drawings in detail.
- October 5, 2017: Held a Council-to-Council meeting to discuss agenda items that Chief Chappell identified as items for discussion when Chief Chappell met with the City’s Chief Administrative Officer, in August of 2017.
- October 6, 2017: City of White Rock provided follow up details regarding the Memorial Park to the Semiahmoo First Nation.
- October 12, 2017: City’s Director of Engineering and Municipal Operations discussed some of the City’s capital projects, including the Memorial Park project with the Semiahmoo First Nation’s Administrator.
- October 13, 2017: To better understand and respect First Nations archaeological sites within the City, I have asked staff to begin working on creating a First Nations Engagement and Consultation Plan for the City’s capital projects.
- October 17, 2017: City’s Director of Engineering and Municipal Services met with the Semiahmoo First Nation and the Tsleil-Waututh Nation to discuss some of the City’s capital projects, including the Memorial Park project.
- October 23, 2017: As a sign of goodwill and respect for First Nations, the City submitted a permit application under the Province’s Heritage Conservation Act for the Memorial Park project, even though, as previously mentioned, the Province advised the City that one was not required.
White Rock staff will continue to engage and consult with Semiahmoo First Nation regarding archaeological concerns as it relates to Memorial Park and other capital projects. The construction fencing has been relocated to reopen the parking area and the washrooms to accommodate the public and local businesses.
White Rock's Respect for First Nations, Culture, & Arts
Truth & Reconciliation
Before the United Nation’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) was created and ratified, and before the Government of Canada’s formal apology to the First Nations, White Rock had begun the work towards Truth and Reconciliation.
In 1998, two Totems were commissioned by the White Rock RCMP Detachment and later raised at a special ceremony in 1999 on East Beach, at what is now known as Totem Park. The Totems were carved by Robert Davidson who lives and works in White Rock and is a master carver of Totem Poles, masks, and a variety of other media, of Haida and Tlingit descent. This initiative was a sign of acknowledging the terrible treatment of Aboriginal people—from the heartbreaking removal and isolation of First Nation children under the Residential Schools system to the destruction of First Nation culture and traditions—to name a few.
I remember the Official Ceremony for raising the Totems very well, including all the work that went into making that important day a possibility, as I was the Chief Administrative Officer for the City of White Rock at the time. Therefore, I had the distinct honour of witnessing the outpouring of support and engagement from the First Nations, White Rock RCMP Detachment, White Rock Council, and of course, our community to ensure this symbolic day occurred.
Totem Park was blessed as a spiritual site by the Semiahmoo people and the Totems known as “The Gift” were raised according to Semiahmoo traditions. For your reference, the video of the Official Ceremony of the Raising of the Totems that took place on April 25, 1999, can be found on our website.
White Rock was honoured to have had the privilege of contributing to the acknowledgement of the acts against First Nations, not because of a Declaration (which did not exist at the time) or because of legislation, but because it was the right thing to do.
The raising of the Totems was the first step towards reconciliation – 10 years before the federal government undertook the same cause, and 18 years before the government declared 2017 to be the year of Reconciliation. In my speech for the Canada Day 150thcelebrations, I made note of this point and that what was done to First Nations throughout Canada’s history was shameful. As difficult as I’m sure it was for Harley Chappell, Chief of the Semiahmoo First Nation, to attend the City’s Canada 150 celebrations, he did so graciously. I was grateful for his blessing and teachings, and of course, for welcoming us to the Semiahmoo traditional lands as we celebrated Canada Day.
White Rock Advocacy’s Efforts for Semiahmoo First Nation
When talks between the Semiahmoo First Nation and others reached an impasse, White Rock stepped in, even though the Semiahmoo First Nation is located within another municipality’s boundary. For example, White Rock Council believes that senior levels of government should provide the Semiahmoo First Nation with the funding required to rebuild the Nation’s infrastructure and community, which is why White Rock has advocated the following, on the Nation’s behalf:
- Assistance for proper water supply and sanitary sewage systems as White Rock believes it is wrong for First Nations to not have adequate distribution systems and be on a boil-water advisory; and,
- Financial support to assist with the Semiahmoo First Nation’s desire for creating an Aboriginal Centre for Arts as White Rock believes that an art centre will help the Nation continue to share cultural knowledge of the First Nation people specific to the Semiahmoo Peninsula and provide the Nation with some economic prosperity.
White Rock’s Respect for First Nation Culture & Arts
The City of White Rock has for many years been supporting First Nations’ history, culture, and arts. I invite you to visit the City of White Rock’s webpage Celebrating Indigenous Arts and Culture in White Rock to learn more about some of the past events and exhibits we have had, which includes the month-long ĆIIḰEN exhibition that celebrated the art and culture of the Semiahmoo people in the City’s Pop-Up-Town Art Studio.
Recent examples include this year’s special 60th Anniversary video which showcased the important role the Semiahmoo First Nation has played in our history as a City. And, as part of part of the Canada 150 Celebrations, the City of White Rock provided significant funding (nearly $50,000) for the Sea of Stories, a musical that centred on the history of White Rock and the Semiahmoo people.
Currently, White Rock has a gallery exhibit at the White Rock Museum focusing on the Semiahmoo First Nation’s stories. This does not include other steps the City has taken through our two-month long Fall Festival of the Arts events to profile First Nation talent.
Municipal Service Agreements - Water & Sanitary Sewer System
White Rock Council has no wish to deprive any citizens or homes of a source of water.
In 2016, the City sent a letter to the Semiahmoo First Nation notifying the Nation about ending water services after multiple attempts to meet and understand the rationale for a troubling letter the Nation’s lawyer sent to the City shortly after the March 10, 2016, Council-to-Council meeting. The letter from the Nation’s lawyer stated that the City was in trespass for maintaining the pump station infrastructure on First Nation land and that the Semiahmoo First Nation wanted it to be removed. The Semiahmoo First Nation also limited the City’s access to the pump station, including the ability to provide regular maintenance following threats of arrest issued by members of Semiahmoo Council to City staff. We took the threats seriously and gave direction for the City’s lawyer to work with the Semiahmoo First Nation’s lawyer on this matter.
The Council-to-Council meeting on March 2016 seemed amicable with the promise to meet again soon, which is why the City was shocked to have received such a letter from the Semiahmoo First Nation’s lawyer. A summary of the items discussed at the meeting can be found in the City’s Corporate Report (PDF), on page 3 of the May 9, 2016, Regular Council Meeting agenda.
The City has initiated the engineering design for a new pump station and drainage system which will be located in White Rock. This is a costly multi-million project that the City has to undertake to address the Semiahmoo First Nation’s trespass issue. City staff are working to complete this project as soon as possible.
The letter from the Semiahmoo First Nation’s lawyer also indicated that all future correspondence from the City to the Nation was to be conducted through the Nation’s lawyer. As per the Semiahmoo First Nation’s request and direction, this is what the City has been doing.
White Rock City Council felt that progress was being made through legal representation from both sides on the water and sanitary agreements and wanted to ensure agreements were finalized prior to having another Council-to-Council meeting.
On October 5, 2017, during our Council-to-Council meeting, we had on table the Municipal Type Service Agreements (MTSA) for water and sanitary sewer services that the Semiahmoo First Nation’s lawyer and the City’s lawyer had been working on for some time and were ready to sign them. Unfortunately, we did not get to this discussion item during the meeting as we came to an impasse on the Memorial Park discussions. Nonetheless, shortly thereafter the City provided the Semiahmoo First Nation with a letter noting that White Rock would continue to provide water services until December 31, 2019, instead of the Nation’s extension request of March 31, 2019, as we believe there is a reasonable chance that the March 31, 2019, extension timeline that the Nation asked for could be insufficient and want to ensure that the Semiahmoo First Nation has enough time to connect to the City of Surrey’s water distribution and sewer systems. We also noted that should the Semiahmoo First Nation require additional time to complete the project, White Rock Council would be open to negotiating a further extension.
The MTSAs that our respective lawyers worked on are currently with the Semiahmoo First Nation. Once the Semiahmoo First Nation signs the agreements, it will ensure that their Nation will have water and sanitary sewer services until the Nation is able to connect to the City of Surrey’s system.
The Semiahmoo First Nation have requested permanent water and sewer agreements for their lands which are west of the Campbell River as it seems that the Nation is planning some sort of development in that area. However, they are asking for the City to incorporate all of the Nation’s future development in the short-term MTSAs. White Rock Council is happy to discuss the Semiahmoo First Nation’s long-term needs and look into the possibility of other MTSAs; however, it is necessary for the City to be made aware of the form and size of the Nation’s development(s) so that we know whether we have the service capacity to handle their needs.
The City of White Rock remains optimistic that the Semiahmoo First Nation is also committed to fostering a relationship built on mutual understanding and respect that will help benefit both of our respective communities. The City of White Rock also looks forward to working with the Semiahmoo First Nation and supporting each other’s current and future development plans and initiatives.
Mayor of the City of White Rock