Members of the Musqueam First Nation took their 100-day protest to Granville Street and the north end of the Arthur Laing Bridge today (August 10), as part of their continued call to protect a South Vancouver site from condo development.
A crowd of Musqueam community members and their supporters marched from the Safeway parking lot at Granville Street and 70th Avenue this morning to the site in the 1300-block of Southwest Marine Drive that has been at the centre of a land dispute.
The group, which was led by drummers and people waving the Musqueam flag, blocked access to the Arthur Laing Bridge for about an hour as protesters walked along the Granville Street on-ramp toward the property.
Cecilia Point, a Musqueam community spokesperson, said the B.C. government has continued to extend the archaeology and alteration permits for part of the site.
“They’re still allowed to go and dig there—that’s why we’re standing here for 100 days,” said Point.
The privately-owned site is located on the Marpole Midden, an archeological site that contains the remnants of an ancient Coast Salish village, as well as human remains of the Musqueam’s ancestors.
Band members such as Point and Rhiannon Bennett have been keeping a daily vigil at the lot since May 3, after intact human remains were uncovered during pre-development work on a five-storey commercial and residential complex. Work on the site was stopped after the remains were uncovered.
“This is a very well-documented site—this has been a national historic site since 1933, it’s been studied since the late 1800s,” Bennett told reporters. “Those bodies that they’ve uncovered…everybody’s always known they were there.”
B.C. NDP MLA Jenny Kwan was among the participants marching along Granville Street today. Kwan said the NDP has been calling on the B.C. government to “engage in a meaningful way with the Musqueam people” to resolve the issue.
“We know that the Musqueam community have offered a land swap,” Kwan told the Straight. “It’s perplexing to me as to why the provincial government won’t proceed with that.”
“We should show good will for resolutions, instead of digging our heels in and refusing to resolve matters.”
B.C.’s Minister of Aboriginal Relations, Mary Polak, told media Thursday (August 9) that the B.C. government opted to fast-track compensation to the Musqueam for a separate land deal.
“The land swap being much more complicated than would seem to be successful, we then proceeded to what is an accelerated accommodation on a cash basis for lands that the Musqueam are entitled to,” she told reporters. “That adds some additional benefits in that we’ve been able to move the process forward much more quickly than we would have if it had been done on the land-swap basis.”
An initial $4.9 million was forwarded to the Musqueam, and a settlement for two other pieces of land is currently being negotiated. Polak said the amount for the three properties should exceed the asking price of the developer for the Marpole lot. She expects a deal to be reached soon between the Musqueam band leadership and the property owners.
Bob Ransford, a spokesperson for property owners Gary and Fran Hackett and developer Century Group, told the Straight earlier this week that his clients have given the Musqueam a price for the land and associated development costs, and are waiting to receive a written offer.
Bennett and other community members say they plan to keep their 24-hour vigil at the lot until a deal is reached to preserve the site.
“I’m willing to be here until the bones of my ancestors are in our care again, and however long that takes is unfortunately out of my hands, but I will be here until that happens,” she said.