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Uncommon Sense: TFN have right to develop as they choose
South Delta is one of the most development-adverse communities I think I have ever seen.
Perhaps that’s for good reason. After all, everyone on this side of the Massey Tunnel saw what happened to unfettered building in Richmond, tearing up farmland for mega malls and big box stores.
As a result people are deeply fearful of what I would call the “Richmondization” of Delta.
That fear has even been projected onto the Tsawwassen First Nation and their ambitious plans to develop just over 340 hectares of their 724 hectare land base.
Plans are underway to build an indoor mall with 17 retailers covering 1.2 million square feet, and three other big box stores covering another 600,000-square-feet. The Aquilini group is building 1,700 units of residential housing, while a further 140 hectares are allocated for industrial purposes.
Some of the anger over TFN development comes from the fact that nearly 400 hectares of prime farmland was taken out of the ALR and given to TFN when they relinquished their claims to Roberts Bank water lots and signed their historic treaty.
Former TFN Chief Kim Baird recalls being shocked when the treaty received backlash from the political left, who have historically been supportive of aboriginal autonomy.
“Typically, you would expect the left-leaning people would be more supportive of the settlement,” she says. “But the land use issue took away from the focus of a just settlement.”
The issue even split the B.C. NDP caucus.
“There’s all these biases that say those indians don’t know what they’re doing, they’re going to make a mess of things, they should be the ‘Noble Savage’ and preserve this as green space just because we like our picturesque, pastoral views.”
Baird says TFN development will raise the income of residents, but also help the local economy rather than sending dollars to the mega malls in Richmond.
The average family income on TFN lands is $20,065, or about 60 per cent lower than the average Delta family.
“The best we can do is be extremely transparent about our plans and try to mitigate the impacts as best as possible,” says Baird.
The fact is that there are 4.7 million hectares in the ALR, and TFN will be using a tiny 300 of them. It’s barely a fragment of the 5,000 hectares of Burns Bog, for that matter.
It’s patronizing to suggest TFN can’t be trusted to develop responsibly.
So many Canadians call for aboriginals to stop relying on government handouts and programs and stand up on their own feet.
Why are we getting angry at them for doing just that?