Chief Ralph Dick participated in a Chamber of Commerce roundtable.

Campbell River-area chiefs ‘fed up’ with city hall

What was supposed to be a friendly exchange of ideas took a sour turn

The city’s working relationship with the two largest local First Nations bands could be better – a lot better, according to two chiefs.

“Indian business is big business, right across Canada,” said Chief Ralph Dick of the Cape Mudge Band. “I’m fed up with those guys (at city hall). They don’t seem to understand we have title and right…there will come a day when we will get what we want and you’ll have no say.”

Dick spoke with the Mirror following Tuesday’s roundtable luncheon meeting sponsored by the Campbell River Chamber of Commerce.

What was supposed to be a friendly exchange of ideas with outgoing Liberal minister Pat Bell – as well as a coming out party for North Island Liberal candidate Nick Facey – took a sour turn when Chief Dick expressed his displeasure with city staff and council.

“They seem to totally ignore us and then think about themselves…enough is enough, we’re fed up,” he said during a later interview.

Campbell River Indian Band Chief Bob Pollard couldn’t make it to the meeting, but expressed similar sentiments.

“I’m not going to say we get along very well…it’s never been very good,” he said. “There’s not very much communication between the city and the band. It’s ridiculous.”

The latest sore spot for the Campbell River Band is the city’s refusal to provide the band with the same tax incentives for new development that is being offered to downtown land owners.

“The tax breaks stop right at our boundary…and we have plans to develop our land. Where’s the fairness?” asked Pollard. “And there’s this perception that we don’t pay taxes. We pay a lot of tax to the city for our commercial developments, the marina and through services agreements.”

Chief Dick roughly estimated the two bands have more than $100 million in commercial assets in the Campbell River area and they will have even more when treaties are settled or they enter into more agreements with higher levels of government.

The band wants to work with the city, but Dick says it’s like a one-way street. He said $300,000 from the Willow Point upgrade project was supposed to go into fixing Willis Road – a key access road from the Quinsam Reserve to the Campbell River Hospital – but nothing was ever done for Willis.

As well, he said, the city refused to provide sewer and water to band land where a big box store was supposed to be built. And thirdly, the chief is particularly angry at the city’s refusal to support a property transfer.

According to Chief Dick, the Cape Mudge Band spent six years working with the province to regain land which was lost when a road was built without band consent.

The new deal would have turned over unused Crown land, located near the band’s Quinsam Reserve in Campbell River, in exchange for the loss. But Dick said the city refused to support the deal. In response, Dick said the band will not support the city’s proposal for a future community forest.

“They’re pushing us, so we’re pushing back,” he said. “I don’t understand it. We spend all our money in Campbell River. We buy our cars, our lumber, our food and our furniture all here, and we hire local contractors. We’re not some corporation where all the money goes somewhere else.”

The Campbell River Indian Band is a major force in Campbell River retail. Discovery Harbour Mall, Walmart and Home Depot are all located on band property.

On Quadra Island, the Cape Mudge Band own and operate Tsa Kwa Luten Lodge, the campgrounds by Rebecca Spit, and the nearby scallop farm.

In Campbell River, the band has its own burgeoning commercial development, Quinsam Crossing, and is about to finalize a large-scale industrial/resource agreement with the Campbell River-based Pallan group to form the Middle Point Harbour Limited Partnership.

“The city has to realize we’re coming and we’re coming with a bang,” Chief Dick stated.

At the roundtable meeting, Minister Bell acknowledged the chief’s frustration and city councillor Andy Adams offered his respect for First Nations and the hope they can work together.

Mayor Walter Jakeway didn’t offer an olive branch, but instead launched into a speech on how the Middle Point port could profit by shipping bulk water to thirsty nations.

He then added, twice for effect, that such a proposal these days is “political suicide.” And if that wasn’t enough, he lamented on how the province should be building nursing schools beside hospitals.

That brought a sigh from North Island College President Jan Lindsay who was six seats away from Jakeway.

The college has a successful nursing program at its Comox Valley campus, right beside the location for the new, soon-to-be-built hospital.

“Maybe I need to tell the mayor that,” said Lindsay as she was leaving.