Park board general manager recommends commissioners approve comprehensive colonial audit

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      A report created for the Vancouver park board states that colonialism has been "embedded" in the organization since it was created in 1888.

      This has manifested itself in the removal of Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh people from their lands, the disturbance of archeological sites, and the imposition of its own culture in the form of activities and installations.

      The report was written by the park board's reconciliation planner, Rena Soutar, as "initial findings on the colonial roots" of the Vancouver park board.

      "One of the core acts of colonialism enacted by settlers is the theft of lands and removal of entire communities from their ancestral homes," it states. "This core act of colonialism has been undertaken by the Park Board since its inception—beginning with the declaration of jurisdiction over 'Stanley Park', as well as beach areas around the City, that were both [of] cultural significance and home to local nations."

      The document also maintains that the park board has prioritized non-Indigenous ways of knowing with regard to stewardship and education.

      Based on these findings, park board general manager Malcolm Bromley has recommended that commissioners direct staff to undertake a comprehensive "colonial audit".

      The intention is to identify short-term and long-term opportunities and ways to improve the park board's practices with regard to reconciliation.

      Commissioners are scheduled to vote on the recommendation at the Monday (July 23) park board meeting.

      Bromley's report to the board points out that the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples calls upon signatories to "respect and promote the inherent right of Indigenous peoples which derive from their political, economic and social structures and from their cultures, spiritual traditions, histories and philosophies, especially their rights to their lands, territories and resources".

      The park board has acknowledged that the City of Vancouver is on unceded territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh nations.

      Bromley's recommendation comes after the park board unanimously approved chair Stuart Mackinnon's motion in April directing staff to conduct an analysis of the organization's colonial roots.

      Mackinnon's motion  directed staff to report back with their findings and recommendations "to acknowledge any and all injustices uncovered as part of the 'truth-telling' phase."

      In his speech to the board on April 16, Mackinnon cited what the International Centre for Transitional Justice said in a report on truth telling and reconciliation.

      "Establishing the truth about past violations will not only help determine the most appropriate remedies to be offered to victims, but it will also help identify the necessary reforms that can prevent such violations from happening again," he said.