OUR VIEW: Reserve issue has been handled poorly

We say: Regional leadership could have been more sensitive

The Strathcona Regional District’s demand that they be properly consulted about the process of creating a new reserve on York Road for the Tlowitsis First Nation may appear that they’re looking out for the best interests of their constituents.

But appearances could be deceiving.

Because what the SRD is actually looking like is a bunch of petulant children. “You haven’t included us in your discussion so we’re not going to commit to provide the reserve with basic services like water. Nyah, nyah.”

Really? They’re not going to extend basic services to the reserve? Are they really going to do that in a country with a long history of doing nothing about removing shameful conditions in reserves that don’t have basic sewer and water services?

Of course not. The SRD is simply taking a political position to ensure that they look out for the supposed best interests of the York Road, Area D and, indeed, Strathcona Regional District (SRD) residents.

But the SRD is handling this all wrong because what they’re really doing is perpetuating the image that the residents of the region are a bunch of NIMBY (not in my backyard) bigots. The neighbourhood didn’t do themselves any favours when someone spray painted anti-reservation graffiti on the pavement of York Road. But the actions of a few always taint the image of the majority and it’s hard to know how much race plays a part in opposition to the reserve plan. When one side of a debate is a racial minority, it’s hard to distinguish between true feelings and legitimate issues.

The process of creating a reserve is a federal responsibility and the SRD, as a ward of the province, is not really involved in that process at this stage. Anyone concerned about the community not being consulted just has to ask how many times First Nations communities in our country’s history have been involved in consultations before losing land.

Of course, people will say can’t the discussion get past the long, sad, sorry history of Native disenfranchisement? Possibly but it takes a high level of sensitivity and the courage for the entrenched community (represented by the SRD) to make the first move towards reconciliation. What do they have to lose?

A justified or unjustified reputation for petty xenophobia perhaps?

It’s safe to say that a significant number of York Road area residents believe that this could be handled more  rationally, sensitively and maturely. Indeed, more representative of their community.