Vancouver Park Board formally acknowledges colonial role, votes to apologize

By Amy Smart

VANCOUVER- The name of Vancouver’s Stanley Park may be up for debate as the city’s park board confronts its colonial past and pursues reconciliation.
The park board approved a “colonial audit’’ this week outlining actions by the city’s forefathers dating back to 1888, including removing entire First Nations communities from their traditional territories when the city declared jurisdiction over Stanley Park and other beach areas.
The board voted to apologize to the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations for taking away ancestral lands, digging up burial grounds to build roads and playgrounds, and other damaging actions.
Park board chairman Stuart Mackinnon said the board took the first step towards reconciliation by “truth telling,’’ formally identifying its colonial role, and it will be working with the local First Nations to avoid future colonial actions.
“It’s sometimes a very powerful and painful experience but it’s important that we recognize that this is where we come from,’’Mackinnon said.
“Stanley Park was the home to many First Nations peoples and over the course of time they were evicted, removed from the park.
What we call our western beaches, Kitsilano, Jericho, Locarno and Spanish Banks, were also home to First Nations people, a gathering place and a place for food collection. They were all removed from there as well.’’
Representatives from the three First Nations were not immediately, available for comment.
The board is working with the First Nations to determine next steps and Mackinnon says he put a motion forward for debate this September that would acknowledge the traditional Indigenous names for the city’s parks and beaches.
Stanley Park is North America’s third largest urban park, attracting an estimated eight million visitors a year, and like the Stanley Cup was named for Lord Frederick Stanley, who was governor general of Canada in 1888.
The board also approved the development of a more comprehensive colonial audit, which Mackinnon says will take about one year to complete.
“As we move forward, we hopefully won’t be making the same mistakes we made in the past,’’ Mackinnon said.

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