‘Frustrated and disheartened’: Snuneymuxw First Nation oppose Nanaimo development

'Frustrated and disheartened': Snuneymuxw First Nation oppose Nanaimo development

The former Howard Johnson hotel property at Terminal Avenue and Comox Road is one of the biggest eye sores in Nanaimo and also one of the city’s most prominent potential development sites.

The city wants to develop the 2.3 hectare site into a massive 750 unit, mixed residential and commercial property, that includes a hotel.

On Thursday, the plan moved a major step forward as council passed the third reading by a vote of 7-1, inching closer towards final approval.

However, the land historically is the site of an ancient Snuneymuxw First Nation village called Sxwayxum and First Nation leaders say the city is proceeding without its consent.

“Snuneymuxw people are frustrated,” stated SFN Councillor Erralyn Joseph. “We’re disheartened by the actions of the City and the developer to oppress the rights and interests of our people.”

Joseph says the city and First Nation had been on the same page to grow the village of Sxwayxum land but now the wishes of the Snuneymuxw people are being ignored.

“Unfortunately, the city and the developer have taken a different mind in denying the rights and interests of our people and saying we don’t have to recognize you and we are going to continue forward without you,” Joseph told CHEK News Saturday. “And in an era of rights, recognition and reconciliation, it baffles me to be honest.”

No one from the City was available to comment Saturday but Mayor Leonard Krog indicated a statement would be forthcoming in due course.

People who live in the area of the proposed development tell CHEK News they’d like to see something done with the property.

“We’ve been waiting long enough for it. It’s a real eye sore right now and it could be greatly improved. Yes I’m looking forward to it,” said Jack Cusack.

And when asked about First Nation opposition, Cusack said, “Well they’ve got to be addressed but I’m just hoping we can get together on this and get it done.”

Brian Wengel supports developing the site but only if it includes the First Nation’s wishes.

“I think obviously they should be talked to and and involved in the process,” he said. “If it was their village site at one time it would be good to have them involved in the conversation.”

So what does the Snuneymuxw First Nation plan to do now?

“All of the options are available to our Nation and our government and our Snuneymuxw people and our council stand behind our ancestors,” Joseph said.

As a possible hint, The Snuneymuxw First Nation tweeted Friday that, “Any attempts to develop this site will be plagued by opposition from our Nation, delays from inevitable archaeological discoveries, and challenges that are insurmountable without us.”

Dean StoltzDean Stoltz

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