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Katzie First Nation accuses Maple Ridge of bad faith engagement

City says it will not be consulting with Katzie about controversial riverfront subdivision
Katzie Chief Grace George has accused Maple Ridge council of failing to consult with her council. (The News files)

The Katzie First Nation sent Maple Ridge a letter critical of city hall for not consulting with the Katzie about a waterfront subdivision on the Alouette River.

“If the city continues with this ill-advised disregard of its legal obligations to consult with Katzie, this bad-faith engagement will be brought to the attention of statutory decision makers during any required provincial or federal permitting processes,” the letter warns.

Despite the strong position taken by Chief Grace George and her council, the city has no intention of consulting directly with the Katzie about the controversial residential development, prior to a public hearing next week.

READ ALSO: Katzie oppose controversial Maple Ridge riverfront subdivision

The plan to turn four residential lots into a 26-home development at the north end of 240th Street was about to be given final approval, when the Katzie sent city hall the letter in early May. Council deferred the matter, amended subdivision bylaws, and the issue will go back to a second public hearing on June 15.

It has been a controversial development, opposed by the Alouette River Management Society. ARMS has threatened to pursue legal action if the subdivision passes, and their legal wrangling with the city may have caused the city to walk back its approvals process.

The city had not released the critical letter publicly until late last week, when it was included in the agenda for the June 15 meeting. It says the Katzie have not been meaningfully engaged or consulted on a project.

READ ALSO: Maple Ridge council backtracks on riverfront subdivision approvals

Veteran councillor and former mayor and newspaper publisher Gordy Robson commented he has never seen such a strong response from the local first nation.

“I’ve never seen a letter like this from the Katzie… ever,” said Robson. “And if there’s anyone who can make a claim on the fish, it’s them.”

The Katzie are asserting their rights to the river, says the letter.

“Katzie has stewarded the Alouette River watershed since time immemorial, and in more recent years has been engaged with BC Hydro and the provincial and federal governments to have our Aboriginal rights, which were taken from us without consent, recognized and restored,” writes George and her council.

“Our salmon are our family, and they are in a state of crisis and on the edge of extinction,” says the Katzie letter. “…we will be looking to ensure our inherent right to a healthy and vibrant fishery and fish ecosystem (which will involve significant changes in the flow of the Alouette River) on the Alouette River is restored and protected for our future generations.”

The letter warns the city should not rely on the Alouette Dam providing flood protection for the new homes, saying the dam could pass more water in future to allow for fish passage, or even be removed entirely.

The letter accuses the city of failing to fulfill its procedural obligations for consultation, of “bad faith engagement,” and even “seemingly try and sneak the final reading past Katzie.”

The city is not intending to consult with the Katzie further regarding the development. Christine Carter, general manager of planning and development, said during the development of an OCP amendment, council must consider who the city will consult with.

“In this particular case, council resolved that no additional consultation was required beyond the posting of the OCP amendment on the city’s website, the developer required development information meeting, and the city hosting a public hearing to consider the matter.

“This is consistent with our normal development process and is compliant with the requirements of the Local Government Act. The Katzie First Nation did not express any concern as part of the original public hearing.”

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Neil Corbett

About the Author: Neil Corbett

I have been a journalist for more than 30 years, the past decade with the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows News.
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