The Musqueam Indian Band will meet this Friday in an effort to put a financial offer together for a private landowner and developer to settle an ongoing land dispute in Marpole.
The goal of the band is to acquire an acresized private lot on Southwest Marine Drive that is believed to be an ancestral burial ground and turn it into a memorial park. Band councillor Wade Grant said the band's negotiating team met twice in the last month with Sean Hodgins of Century Group HQ Developments Ltd. to discuss a settlement.
The developer, who is working on behalf of property owners Gary and Fran Hackett, calculated what it thinks is fair value for the land and associated costs related to a proposed 108-unit condominium project.
Now it's up to the band to go over the numbers and determine what it believes is a reasonable offer for the property, which is near the on-ramp to the Arthur Laing Bridge. "We don't even know how far apart we are yet," said Grant, when asked how quickly a settlement could be reached.
Neither Grant nor Bob Ransford, a spokesman for Century Group and the Hacketts, would reveal financial details related to the negotiations.
Talks began after the provincial government agreed in mid-June to offer the Musqueam at least $4.8 million to help resolve the land dispute. The money is owed to the band as per a previous agreement related to the government's South Fraser Perimeter Road project in Delta and Surrey, which falls on traditional Musqueam lands.
Other money, under separate agreements, is forthcoming, according to Mary Polak, the provincial minister responsible for aboriginal affairs, who wrote a letter to the band in June.
Ransford said his clients are optimistic about the negotiations and want to reach a settlement soon because of costs related to an idle construction site.
More than 70 people bought condominiums on what was supposed to be a 108-unit building with an underground parkade. Construction on the site ceased earlier this year after archaeologists discovered the intact human remains of two adults and two infants.
The Musqueam believe the remains to be of their ancestors and don't want them disturbed. The area once served as a village for the band and was designated a Canadian heritage site in the 1930s.
This Friday will mark the 72nd day that members of the band have kept a vocal protest, with daily drumming and singing, outside the property. At one point, the band escalated its protest when it shut down the north side ramps of the Arthur Laing Bridge for almost three hours.
Band member Cecilia Point said Wednesday the protest will continue around the clock until the band reaches a settlement that leads to acquisition of the land.
Point said she's even more determined after the landowner's daughter visited the property last week and allegedly told the Musqueam its appointed monitor for the site had to leave. "That sort of reaction makes me nervous about leaving the site so, yes, we will stay here when the land is safely back in our hands," she said.
The band continues to occupy a space under the viaducts, where it has a tent for shelter and food, some of which is donated by the public.
For the most part, Point said, motorists and pedestrians in the neighbourhood support the band's fight, although she said a motorist swerved at a protester last week and knocked a sign out of her hand.