In a press release from the Musqueam Nation, Chief Wayne Sparrow stated “Musqueam has not been meaningfully consulted nor accommodated for the GMT (George Massey Tunnel) project. This project is in the core of our exclusive territory and the Provincial and Federal government have not received Musqueam’s consent.” Other media have picked up this unfulfilled duty to consult where indigenous rights and title exists.
This lack of consultation is a gaping omission given the Province’s claim through the Minister of Transportation that they have undergone a robust consultation process, even though this seems very slim on their website. And the Musqueam Nation have a very valid reason to be listened to and accommodated in any process impacting the Fraser River at this location-they have inhabited this land for thousands of years.
The proposed Massey Bridge lies squarely in the “heart of Musqueam territory and the BC (British Columbia) government has not received consent from Musqueam to proceed. It is in an area that has been occupied by Musqueam since time immemorial. GMT is surrounded by heritage sites, and other culturally important sites, including fishing areas in the Lower Fraser River that Musqueam has Aboriginal rights to fish, which are protected by the Canadian Constitution after a Supreme Court of Canada ruling (R. v Sparrow, 1992).
The Musqueam note that the tunnel removal “will add to the negative cumulative effects in Musqueam’s territorial waters in the Fraser River. BC and Canada have not considered these effects as they continue to approve projects like this”. And the First Nations is quite clear about what they think of this project: “Musqueam will not stand for the continued degradation of our lands and waters. The BC and Canadian government have much work to do with us to ensure the GMT project can proceed according to Musqueam conditions”, said Chief Sparrow. He added, “Musqueam is leading in areas of stewardship and management in our territory, and will raise the bar on all future projects in Musqueam territory. We are not against development, but it must be done in ways that include Musqueam values, and ensures the protection of our rights.”
The Musqueam values are being echoed by others who have done their due diligence and realize the ecological degradation of the lands and the river that will occur, including the damage to the river in the removal of the tunnel and further dredging to accommodate larger ships.The Province will say they are not doing this work which is partially right, because in this shell game the dredging would be under the auspices of the Port which is a federal authority.
When the stewards of the land, the Nation that has solidly lived here for thousands of years before Canadian Confederation speak, we all should be listening. The fact that this First Nation was not actively consulted is surprising. As the Musqueam First Nation says on their website, colonization resulted in “our traditional and customary system of authority quickly became secondary without the awareness of native leadership“.
It looks like the Province is still going bull-headedly on that same path, regardless of the devastating impacts on the Agricultural Land Reserve, the sensitive eco-system of the Fraser River delta and its shoreline, the wishes of the Metro Vancouver Mayors’ Council and the interests of the First Nations who have rights to this Territory.