Local First Nations back Vancouver plan to eliminate park board

Click to play video: 'First Nations endorse Vancouver plan to eliminate Park Board'
First Nations endorse Vancouver plan to eliminate Park Board
A significant endorsement came on Monday for Vancouver Mayor Ken Sim's move to eliminate the elected Park Board. But as Grace Ke reports, even this support from First Nations doesn't mean the issue will be settled soon – Mar 4, 2024

The three First Nations with territory in Vancouver say they back the mayor’s proposed elimination of the city’s park board, but also want deeper changes to the Vancouver Charter.

On Monday, the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Wauthuth nations, known collectively as the MST Nations, released a letter to the city and province Monday expressing their support.

The nations said they had directed the MST Technical Team to meet and work with the city and province on proposed changes to the Vancouver Charter that would be required to abolish the Vancouver Park Board.

Click to play video: 'Vancouver Park Board seeks legal review of mayor’s abolition plan'
Vancouver Park Board seeks legal review of mayor’s abolition plan

But the nations say they also want a written commitment from the city and province to update the charter to make it consistent with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). The B.C. government passed legislation in 2019 that requires the province to bring provincial laws in line with the UN declaration.

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“We are grateful to Musqueam Indian Band, Squamish Nation, and Tsleil-Waututh Nation for their invaluable support and continued partnership,” Vancouver Mayor Ken Sim said in a media release.

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“My team and I look forward to continuing our collaborative efforts with First Nations throughout this process to ensure our parks and recreation facilities get the care they deserve.”

Sim and the ABC majority on Vancouver city council passed a motion in December 2023 calling on the province to amend the city’s charter to eliminate the elected park board, arguing it is broken and cannot be fixed. Sim floated the idea of abolishing the board in 2021 but reversed that position and pledged to keep and fix the body ahead of the 2022 municipal election.

Click to play video: 'Vancouver mayor forges ahead with dismantling park board'
Vancouver mayor forges ahead with dismantling park board

The province has said for it to approve the move, the city must produce a transition plan that includes consultation with First Nations, land ownership and the future of park board employees.

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On Monday, Premier David Eby said he knows the park board issue is a priority for the city, but that the province’s current focus is on implementing its 2024 budget.

“We are creating space to as best as possible, if we can, facilitate you being able to advance this in this legislative session, but we have been in communication with Vancouver on a number of important issues, including legal issues related to the tenure of different parks in the city of Vancouver,” Eby said.

“There are some serious complexities we still need to address before we can move ahead in the legislative session. It’s not out of the question, but it is an uphill battle, and we are going to continue our work with Vancouver to try and move this forward if we can.”

A majority on the park board, including three former members of ABC Vancouver, has voted to oppose disbanding the elected body and to hire independent legal counsel to explore a possible legal challenge to the move.

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