The City of White Rock is responding to the Semiahmoo First Nation’s news release sent out on September 14, 2016.
In its news release, the First Nation claims that it is not aware of the reasons for the City’s notification to secure a new water supply.
On March 10, 2016 the City of White Rock and members of the Semiahmoo First Nation met to discuss a number of topics, including water. The City thought this meeting was productive and amicable. A summary of the items discussed at the meeting can be found in the City’s Corporate Report, on page 50 of the May 9, 2016 Regular Council Meeting agenda.
Shortly after the March 10, 2016 meeting, however, the City received a letter through the Semiahmoo First Nation’s lawyer. The issue at hand– the City was in trespass for maintaining pump station infrastructure on First Nation land. This pump station infrastructure is what allows for the City to provide storm drainage services.
The Semiahmoo First Nation falls entirely within the City of Surrey’s municipal boundary. Currently, there is no formal agreement between the City of White Rock and the Semiahmoo First Nation to supply them with water or sewer services. The City is committed to achieving an agreement. Since June, attempts made by City Staff to meet with the Semiahmoo First Nation to finalize agreements have been denied.
On October 31, 2015 the City of White Rock purchased the water utility from EPCOR Water Services Inc. The City continued to supply the First Nation with bulk water after the acquisition of EPCOR Water Services Inc. However, the Semiahmoo First Nation has limited the City’s access to the pump station, including the ability to provide regular maintenance following threats of arrest issued by members of the First Nation to City staff. The First Nation has also asked for the City to remove the pump station and infrastructure.
This was very troubling for the City to hear and understand given the steps the City has taken to support the First Nation as they have had a water advisory in place for a number of years. The City has even sent City Staff to show First Nation staff how to properly test for chlorine when they had issues with the level of chlorine in their water distribution system.
“Even though, the Semiahmoo First Nation is not part of the City’s jurisdiction we have advocated strongly on their behalf to receive funding so that they could have the means to upgrade a much needed water distribution system,” said Wayne Baldwin, the Mayor of White Rock. For example, at the 2012 Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) convention, the City of White Rock met with the Cabinet Minister responsible for Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation, on behalf of Semiahmoo First Nation, and requested that the First Nation receive assistance to implement an adequate water supply and sewer system on their land.
“If they come back with an action plan on how they will get their new permanent water supply and need the City to extend the 18 month timeline, we will consider it; especially since I’ve heard rumblings of the First Nation doing a major commercial development, which if true, may affect White Rock’s water capacity,” the Mayor went on to say.
“Regardless, the Semiahmoo First Nation need to be willing to meet with City Staff to discuss the many demands they have made of the City and be open to a fair agreement, which is what we are seeking,” concluded the Mayor.
For more information contact:
Ms. Farnaz Farrokhi
Communications Manager | City of White Rock