The ongoing land dispute in Marpole between the Musqueam Indian Band and a development team is now in its fifth month with no promise of a resolution.
The band was scheduled to meet Wednesday with Century Group HQ Developments Ltd. in another attempt to reach a settlement on the property on Southwest Marine Drive.
Wade Grant, a Musqueam band councillor, said he couldn’t speculate when the band will finalize an offer to purchase the acre-sized lot from Century Group and property owners Gary and Fran Hackett.
“We can’t overpay what we think is a reasonable price,” said Grant, noting the development team wants to be compensated for money already invested in what was to be a 108-unit condominium project. “So we’ve got to find a common ground there.”
Band members began protesting outside the property near the Arthur Laing Bridge in May after intact remains of two adults and two infants believed to be Musqueam ancestors were discovered on the site. Archaeologists discovered the remains and other artifacts while preparing the property for construction.
The band wants to acquire the property, cover the remains and convert the land into a public memorial park. The development team agreed to stop work on the site and negotiate with the Musqueam.
In mid-June, the provincial government offered the band several million dollars to be used to reach a settlement. The money is owed to the Musqueam from separate agreements related to the government’s South Perimeter Road Project in Delta and Surrey, which falls on traditional Musqueam lands.
Bob Ransford, a spokesman for the Hacketts and Century Group, said his clients have yet to see a proposal in writing and want a resolution sooner than later.
Ransford said his clients believed a deal would have been finalized a couple of weeks after the government agreed in mid-June to give the band money to reach a deal. “This is unbelievable how long it’s taken,” he said. “Our preferred option is to accommodate their interests and they accommodate our interests and we get on with it.”
Meanwhile, the protest outside the site that attracted B.C. Grand Chief Stewart Philip and Assembly of First Nations Chief Shawn Atleo has dwindled.
Cecilia Point, one of the protest organizers, and one other person were on the sidewalk outside the site Wednesday. The drop in numbers came after the band issued a press release Aug. 22 saying the protest would be scaled back in respect of negotiations with the development team.
“We’ve taken down signs and our large presence there but it’s part of our culture to stay with the deceased until they’re looked after properly,” said Point, noting singers and drummers do occasionally attend in the evening.“It’s more of a meditative presence now.”