Snaw-Naw-As health director Donna Edwards, left, and former Chief Wayne Edwards joined Parksville Mayor Marc Lefebvre during an Aboriginal Day ceremony at city hall in June of 2017. — NEWS file photo

Parksville councillor wants First Nation recognition made policy

City opens public meetings with voluntary acknowledgment of traditional territories

For years, Parksville city council meetings have opened with the reading of an acknowledgement of the area’s First Nations and their traditional territories.

That recognition, however, has not been actual city policy. Until now.

At its first meeting of the year on Jan. 15, council unanimously approved a motion by Coun. Kirk Oates that city staff draft a policy on recognition of First Nation territory at meetings of council.

“It’s been a practice of this council since the very first meeting of this council that you recognize the Coast Salish Nations and the territories here at the beginning of the meeting,” Oates said to Mayor Marc Lefebvre. “But I don’t believe we have a policy that says we do that.”

The motion followed a similar request by Qualicum Beach Coun. Barry Avis in late November, 2017, that the town issue a statement of recognition of local First Nations and acknowledgement of their traditional territories.

RELATED: Qualicum Beach councillor wants First Nations to be recognized

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In the case of Qualicum Beach, First Nations recognition has not been part of public meetings. In Parksville, however, Lefebvre has consistently opened all regular, special and budget consultation meetings with the following statement:

“The City of Parksville recognizes the people of the Coast Salish Nations and their traditional territories, upon which we gather with gratitude.”

Lefebvre also uses the acknowledgement during other public appearances on behalf of the city, as he did Jan. 11 during an address to the Parksville & District Chamber of Commerce at its monthly dinner. Oates also used the acknowledgement Thursday, Jan. 18, when welcoming a Syrian family to the community.

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But Oates, who last year requested the city issue a proclamation for Aboriginal Day and invite a delegation from the Snaw-Naw-As Nation, said he wanted to ensure the public meeting acknowledgement goes beyond one mayor’s or one council’s choice.

“In the spirit of reconciliation, I don’t think reconciliation is something that’s confined to one year; it’s something that has to be demonstrated year after year by your actions.”

Council unanimously approved the motion to direct staff to draft a policy, without further discussion.

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