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Katzie ‘will not be standing down,’ oppose riverfront subdivision

Maple Ridge council decision ‘oppressive and unacceptable’
Katzie First Nation Chief Grace George is critical of Maple Ridge for a lack of consultation. (The News files)

The Katzie First Nation reacted strongly to Maple Ridge council’s decision to approve a riverfront subdivision on the Alouette River.

“Katzie continues to work with the Crown to ensure all required legislation and duties are followed and will not be standing down or allowing our legislative rights and title to be swept away by the ignorance displayed by the four Maple Ridge city councillors who approved this project, and to the developer for taking this position,” said a statement from Chief Grace George and her council, in the wake of the council allowing a 26-lot subdivision on the flood plain, where 240th Street meets the river.

READ ALSO: Maple Ridge council approves controversial riverfront subdivision

“These shameful acts have only shown your community that they do not matter, you have shown my land-based nation that we do not matter, this is not leadership, this is oppressive and unacceptable,” said George.

“Our nation has sat at negotiating tables for centuries, we have defended our land, and stood for the best interests of our current membership and also for our future generations. We are well versed in this process, clearly this (Maple Ridge) council is not,” continued George.

“Our greatest of gifts have been provided by our ancestors, our historical occupation on the land, our sacred culture, our imprint within our territory. We are not invisible. We are here, we have always been here! It’s our priority to protect what little remains for our people. We have been patient, we have been generous, we simply have asked for some respect and that has not even been remotely provided by the Maple Ridge City Council.”

Cheryl Ashlie, a past president of the Alouette River Management Society (ARMS) and former city councillor, said council was disrespectful to not meet with Katzie, after the band voiced its opposition to the development.

READ ALSO: Katzie First Nation accuses Maple Ridge of bad faith engagement

The city lawyer said Tuesday council met legal obligations in approving the subdivision. Ashlie believes this is technically correct, but describes a council that may have followed the letter of the law of First Nations consultation, but not the spirit.

She said the city could be in for a fight on this file.

“I believe the Katzie and First Nations across Canada are tired of all the talk, and none of the walk,” she said.

Ashlie levelled criticism at councillors who voted in favour of the subdivision, saying Coun. Ryan Svendsen owed the public more explanation than to merely say he will follow staff’s recommendation.

“I was shocked Ryan Svendsen didn’t explain himself,” she said.

Chelsa Meadus thanked staff for staying professional despite “unprofessional comments” from the public, but Meadus disregarded the work by many members of the public who gave input at public hearings, said Ashlie

“Chelsa forgets she’s not elected by staff. She’s elected by the public,” Ashlie said.

Ashlie also took umbrage at Mayor Mike Morden’s comments that ARMS and other “passionate advocates” will ensure the highest level of scrutiny on the project.

“I’m sorry Mike Morden – that’s your job,” she said. “To now tell us we can oversee their mess? How dare he.”

She said councillors heard through a second public hearing that the river is struggling, and the salmon are struggling, but their minds were made up.

ARMS president Ken Stewart was also critical of Morden.

“I thought he showed arrogance by trying to demean those people who fought to bring the facts out,” said Stewart.

He said through seven hours of public hearing time, only one person spoke in favour of the development.

“He dismissed that as having no importance,” said Stewart, who is also a former city councillor.

“They bent to the will of the developer, and totally ignored the public,” he said.

ARMS will continue to fight the development in conversations with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, the Environment Ministry and other senior government agencies.

Kirk Grayson of the Maple Ridge Climate Hub said the decision “demonstrates a disconnect between council priorities and the vision of Maple Ridge residents.”

“Justifying the lack of consultation with Katzie by noting that this isn’t breaking any laws displays an unsettling disregard for the spirit of reconciliation, and especially so in the wake of the recent discoveries of unmarked graves at Kamloops Residential School and Cowessess First Nation, with more to come,” she said.

READ ALSO: ‘They made us believe we didn’t have souls:’ Marieval residential school survivor

“The community is reeling from these discoveries and has a wholehearted desire to take meaningful action on reconciliation.”

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Neil Corbett

About the Author: Neil Corbett

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