Victoria council votes in favour of annual $200K reconciliation grant


For the first time ever, the City of Victoria will be sharing its wealth with the First Nations on whose traditional land it sits.

Following a council vote, $200,000 in the form of an annual grant will be given to the Songhees and Esquimalt Nations. The grant will be handed out for at least the next five years, with no conditions of use.

“It’s time for us to look beyond just gestures and words to do something proactively practical that would assist them in their own economic development,” said Coun. Marianne Alto, who voted in favour of the grant.

The reconciliation grant will be paid for this year from the 2021 surplus, and going forward, it will be funded by new revenue that comes from new buildings on the city’s lands.

“We wouldn’t be able to make the decisions that we make at the City of Victoria if we weren’t sitting on the lands of the Lekwungen people,” said Alto. “It just seemed fair that there would be some small share of that that could be shared with the First Nations.”

Songhees First Nation Chief Ron Sam, in a letter to city council, said it’s appropriate given that the city has benefitted from the traditional territories of the Lekwungen-speaking people.

“For too long, the City of Victoria has disproportionately benefitted from land development activities and Songhees territories. Benefits to the City have occurred to the detriment of the Songhees Nation, which has but a small fraction of its original territory and faces insufficient revenue to carry out our vision in the delivery of programs and services, language and culture revitalization, and stewardship of lands and waters,” Sam wrote.

“We are pleased that the City of Victoria has worked with representatives of the Songhees and Esquimalt Nations to identify ways to share some of the considerable wealth derived from the development of these lands.”

But while some councillors say it’s the next step in reconciliation, the decision to hand over the money wasn’t unanimous, with Stephen Andrew and Geoff Young voting against the proposal.

“I still don’t feel like I can support it,” said Young. “Why is the city doing it and not the province? And there will always be the same concern which is, gosh, $200,000. We could do other things with that.”

Talks of a public referendum on the grant were shot down as voters are set to cast their votes in the upcoming fall municipal election.

The recommendation still needs to be ratified with the budget on Thursday’s council meeting.

Kori SidawayKori Sidaway

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