The B.C. Teachers’ Federation has weighed in on a contentious land dispute and says it supports the Musqueam Indian Band’s fight to stop a condominium development on a property in Marpole.
The teachers’ federation issued a press release Friday stating the land on Southwest Marine Drive should be transformed into a public heritage park, as the band has proposed.
Intact remains of an adult were discovered at the site near the Arthur Laing Bridge in January and remains of two infants were found in April.
The Musqueam band believes the remains are of their ancestors who once occupied the lands known as the Marpole Midden, a Canadian heritage site.
Saanich-based Gary and Fran Hackett own the property and are working with Century Holdings to build 108 condos with underground parking.
The Musqueam want a land swap between the property owners, the provincial government and the city to resolve the dispute. The band and its supporters have protested at the site since last month and blocked traffic on the Arthur Laing bridge during Thursday’s morning rush hour to call attention to their cause.
The BCTF said in its press release it takes seriously its responsibility to educate the next generations about the history and culture of the first nations.
“The Marpole Midden contains the remains of a major Coast Salish village dating back 4,000 years. Its presence stands as yet another reminder that this land was occupied long before colonization. The archeological site will also provide invaluable educational opportunities for future students and scholars,” BCTF president Susan Lambert said in the press release. She wasn’t available for further comment.
Last year, the BCTF backed the Occupy Vancouver protest at the Vancouver Art Gallery, committing $1,000 worth of in-kind donations such as food.
It’s unclear if the BCTF has or will be donating financial resources to the Musqueam protest.
Cecilia Point, a Musqueam Indian Band member, has been at the protest site every day since the demonstration started May 3. Point took a leave of absence from her job in aboriginal tourism.
She said the band is “ecstatic” the BCTF is lending its support and that endorsements from outside organizations are vital.
“To me it’s very important, but especially [from] teachers because they teach our children,” she said.
Some Richmond first nations studies teachers have brought their students to the protest site, according to Point.
“They’ve come down a couple of times. To be honest, I don’t know if it’s two different classes,” she said, adding that bus drivers have also been supportive, honking horns and waving.
Point’s not sure what sparked the BCTF endorsement.
“Some of our members could be teachers, so they could be petitioning their union—that’s a possibility,” she said.
“I don’t personally know anyone who’s done that, but I know some of our members have petitioned their churches and religious organizations.”
Point said protesters would remain at the property until “it’s settled.”
The Musqueam have garnered support from city hall—both Mayor Gregor Robertson and Vision Vancouver Coun. Andrea Reimer signed the band’s petition to stop development on the land.
The B.C. Archaeological Society of British Columbia also put out a statement, which reads in part: “The ASBC supports the protection and conservation of this historically important village and cemetery. We also support Musqueam’s inherent right ‘to maintain, control, protect and develop their cultural heritage,’ as recognized in Article 31 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples 2007.We call on the Province of B.C. to likewise recognize this right and take action in support of this and of the British Columbia Heritage Conservation Act, the purpose of which is to ‘conserve’ the places that matter. Marpole is a place that matters.”