The Musqueam Band wants to develop 22-acres of land near UBC with hopes that revenue will go towards addressing housing, education and healthcare issues in their community.
The proposed development includes plans for retail space, multi-level housing and a hotel.
These University Endowment Lands were given to the Musqueam as part of a reconciliation package from the government four years ago.
“Musqueam has always looked at revenue from economic development as part as infusing capital into different programs like housing,” said Wade Grant, Musqueam councillor and economic development co ordinator.
“Right now we rely heavily on the transfer money from the Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada.”
Long wait list for housing and post-secondary education on Musqueam reserve
Grant added that the potential capital from this development could help solve some financial problems the Musqueam are currently facing and ultimately increase the standard of living in their Marpole Village reserve.
“We have a housing list with over 200 people that want to come and live back in our community. Right now we have limited resources to fund that,” said Grant.
“Also, education. It’s a misconception that every First Nations person will get free education. That’s not that case. There’s a 200 person wait list again, for people that want to go to post secondary. We want to create a trust or something along those lines that will allow people to go to school.”
Since the Musqueam population is rapidly growing, Grant said that this development could help the community look toward the future as well as solving current problems.
“We just opened up two new soccer fields and a basketball court. Our population is growing by leaps and bounds, it’s at almost 1300 now, so we know that the youth are going to need more places to go. Those are the sorts of things that are at the top of my mind right now.”
There will be a series of open houses where the community can provide input on the project, with the first one happening on Dec. 6.
Expert says First Nations continue to thrive despite pressures
Annie Ross, assistant professor in the First Nations Studies program at SFU, says that right now is a critical time for First Nations in Canada, with a government that is in many ways invested in terminating aboriginal independence.
“I think the issue has gotten to be survivability,” said Ross, adding that, despite this, the big picture should not be overlooked.
“I think we get lost in these Western-centric arguments of welfare or no welfare and that’s really not what’s going on in my opinion. People are self-sufficient, they’re thriving and surviving despite severe oppression.”
New Musqueam Chief to be elected next week
In the midst of development plans, the Musqueam are electing a new Chief on Dec. 3 as longtime Chief Ernest Campbell recently resigned.
Grant is running along with four other candidates.
Reported by Cara McKenna
In this podcast, Ley Doctor discusses the potential economic benefits for the Musqueam from the Block F development, with insights from Wade Grant and Annie Ross.