Musqueam buy disputed Marine Drive land

Proposed condo development site of lengthy First Nations protest

The Musqueam Indian Band is now the official owner of a one-acre piece of property in Marpole that was at the centre of a lengthy dispute that involved the discovery of ancestral remains on a site planned for a condominium complex.

The deal was announced Tuesday and reached between the band, property owners Gary and Fran Hackett and Century Group HQ Developments Ltd.

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The Hacketts, a retired couple from Saanich, were equal partners with Century Group and planned to build a 108-unit condominium complex in the 1300-block Southwest Marine Drive.

Details of the sale were not disclosed but the property, which is near the north end of the Arthur Laing Bridge, is believed to have sold for several million dollars.

Musqueam Chief Wayne Sparrow said in a statement that he was “pleased with the outcome”, which came after many months of protest that led to negotiations with the property owners.

“It is our teaching to always protect the interests of our membership, including our lands, history and culture,” Sparrow said. “The successful resolution of the development plans for these lands demonstrates First Nations and private property owners can work together to understand each others’ interests and conduct business in a respectful way.”

Negotiations began after the provincial government agreed in mid-June 2012 to offer the Musqueam at least $4.8 million to help resolve the land dispute.

The money was 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.

Sean Hodgins of Century Group said in the joint news release that he believed the deal was “fair.” Century Group negotiated the deal on behalf of the Hacketts, who owned the property for more than 50 years.

“It took some time to get this outcome, but I appreciate the determination of the Musqueam leaders and their perseverance in working with us to reach an agreement,” Hodgins said. “They followed through on their promise to me when I agreed to halt work — that they would pursue a purchase in good faith — and they followed through and they acted honourably.”

Hodgins and the Hacketts agreed to stop work on the property in early 2011 after archeologists discovered the intact human remains of two adults and two infants, which the Musqueam believe to be their ancestors.

The discovery led to the Musqueam setting up a lengthy protest camp outside the property, which attracted Assembly of First Nations Chief Shawn Atleo, NDP leader Adrian Dix and Mayor Gregor Robertson, who supported the band’s fight for the land.

At one point, band members shut down a portion of the Arthur Laing Bridge in protest. Band councillor Wade Grant said he believed the Musqueam’s action was crucial to reaching a deal on the property.

“It was important to do this so that people gained an understanding of the historical significance of the site,” he said, adding that many non-band members also joined the protest to show their support for the Musqueam.

The band launched the protest so the property would be left untouched and turned into a memorial park. The area once served as a village for the band and was designated a Canadian heritage site in the 1930s.

The Courier reached the Hacketts Wednesday but the couple referred calls to Century Group, which Gary Hackett praised for negotiating a complicated deal.

The Courier left a message for Hodgins at Century Group but he did not return a call before deadline.

Note: This story has been updated since it was first posted Oct. 1

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