OCP still to address First Nations development rights 

Squamish and Lil'wat advise RMOW more consultation needed on crown land, aboriginal title

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Squamish and Lil'wat First Nations need more reassurance from Whistler that they will be able to develop their land within the municipality for their economic benefit in the future.

They have asked for council not to move ahead with first and second reading of the updated Official Community Plan (OCP) as planned for the August 21 meeting until they get that reassurance in the plan.

Whistler's OCP update meanwhile reinforces a commitment to capping its growth and development potential.

And while changes have been made in recent months to reflect First Nations' concerns, they say the plan still does not go far enough.

Pique reported last week that First Nations had "cleared the way" for the OCP to move ahead, but this week both nations said they are adamant that more consultation needs to take place before either is willing to give its support to the OCP.

Lil'wat Nation Chief Lucinda Phillips, who was not available for comment for last week's story, said Tuesday: "We would like to have the opportunity to develop them (the fee simple lands). We're always willing to work with the RMOW through what kind of development they may or may not like to see."

It's not just the fee simple land in the area that concerns the nations, or the 300 acres of land that was specifically transferred to Squamish and Lil'wat in the lead-up to the 2010 Olympic Games. It's all the Crown land, too.

When asked what Lil'wat would like to see, Phillips said: "Just them acknowledging that Lil'wat and Squamish have been here and acknowledging our titles and rights," she said.

In a letter to the RMOW, dated July 31, Gregory McDade, lawyer from Squamish Nation, wrote: "Your proposed draft in particular does not deal with a key concern — the purported application of the OCP to Crown lands, which are still subject to unresolved aboriginal rights and title, and the unfair impact upon First Nations of the consequential development freeze. The economic component of aboriginal title is a key issue that my clients desire to see addressed. There may be ways to address it, but it will require amendments to the OCP."

Chief Ian Campbell reiterated this week: "More work needs to be done... We definitely need to have a mechanism and a process to resolve these issues, otherwise we're left in limbo."

Both nations have also advised the provincial government of their concerns in separate and recent letters. Specifically, they each address the lack of consultation in the process.

"We made it very clear what kind of involvement we wanted with the consultation," said Phillips.

The nations met with mayor and staff to discuss the OCP before November's election, then again with new Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden. That was followed with a written submission to the RMOW. But it doesn't go far enough.

In a letter to Ida Chong, minister of community, sport and cultural development, Phillips wrote:

"The significant implications of this proposed OCP require direct discussion and consultation between the Provincial Crown and the First Nations themselves. We hope that the Province does not intend to 'delegate' that duty to a municipality who has shown no inclination to reconcile their interests with the First Nations."

Whistler had planned to consider first and second readings of the OCP at the August 21 council meeting, but has postponed the vote, as well as an information session on the OCP.

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