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Delta city council moves toward First Nations land acknowledgment

Motion aimed at reconciliation and building stronger relationships with Indigenous peoples
Delta councillor Dan Copeland
Coun. Dan Copeland said it’s important for Delta to acknowledge the relationship Tsawwassen, Musqueam and other Coast Salish peoples have with the land on which the City of Delta was founded.

Council meetings are to have a territorial acknowledgement of Delta’s Musqueam and Tsawwassen First Nation neighbours.

Coun. Dan Copeland, at Monday's council meeting, gave a notice of motion for city staff to look at options for having council and committee meetings, as well as public events, preceded by meaningful acknowledgment of the First Nations’ traditional territory.

Council unanimously approved the motion.

Saying it’s aimed at reconciliation and building stronger relationships with Indigenous peoples, Copeland said it’s important for Delta to acknowledge the relationship of the Tsawwassen, Musqueam and other Coast Salish peoples have with the land on which the modern day City of Delta was founded.

Mayor George Harvie said he has already set up meetings with TFN Chief Ken Baird and Musqueam Chief Wayne Sparrow to start the conversation.

Harvie said it’s important for cities to consult with their neighbouring First Nations chiefs, which hasn’t been the case in some communities.

Harvie said a report on the subject of recognition of the traditional territory of the Tsawwassen and Musqueam will also be coming to Delta’s police board for review and recommendations to council.

The practice of making such acknowledgments is now widely practiced throughout B.C including the Delta board of education.

Delta council’s move to do the same follows Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum and Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie both recently rejecting implementing a formal acknowledgement of living and conducting business on Indigenous lands.

McCallum said his city is a leader in First Nations’ relations, while Brodie said two lawsuits with First Nations groups are preventing his city from doing a land acknowledgements prior to council meetings.

Following Surrey council’s vote to reject a motion brought forward by Coun. Jack Hundial for land acknowledgments, the B.C. Assembly of First Nations issued a statement calling on Surrey to reconsider. The Assembly noted Surrey resides on the unceded, not surrendered and continually occupied territories of the Semiahmoo, Katzie, Kwikwetlem, Kwantlen, Musqueam, Qayqayt, Tsleil Waututh and Tsawwassen First Nations.

In an effort to educate themselves and embark on journeys of reconciliation, many municipalities across the country have instituted a territorial acknowledgement, including the City of Vancouver and others in B.C., as a mandatory protocol when opening up meetings, the Assembly notes, adding the decision by Surrey council is disappointing and a further enforcement of systemic racism.

Surrey council this month voted 5-4 in opposition with McCallum being the deciding vote.

-with files from Graeme Wood/Glacier Media

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