Snuneymuxw Proposes New Public Process on Colliery Dams - June 13, 2013

NANAIMO (British Columbia) – The Snuneymuxw First Nation has informed the City of Nanaimo about growing concern it has about the approach being taken to the matter of the Colliery Dams, and is suggesting a new public process be put in place that will transparently review alternatives and engage multiple stakeholders.

"I recognize this matter has gotten extremely complicated for everybody. I know the Mayor, his Council, and staff have been making strong efforts to deal with this complexity, and that many citizens are dedicating their time, intelligence and energy to this matter.

Snuneymuxw's goal remains to try to play a positive and constructive role, while also ensuring that our Treaty protected fisheries on the Chase River are respected," said Chief Douglas White III, of the Snuneymuxw First Nation.

When the City first informed Snuneymuxw some months ago that it needed to take steps to plan the possible removal of the Dams, Snuneymuxw and the City agreed to a process through which information would be shared, assessment would take place, and further studies might be done. Given this, Snuneymuxw was totally taken by surprise by the recent decision by Council to potentially rebuild them, as well as public discussion that there might be alternatives to Dam removal. The possibility of rebuilding the dams was not discussed with Snuneymuxw before the City passed a resolution in May saying it would rebuild the dams. Generally speaking building dams is a far more complicated proposition, given Snuneymuxw's fisheries on the Chase River. Dual processes of removing the dams, and then rebuilding them, also raises new fisheries concerns.

Snuneymuxw is of the view that a new public process for exploring alternatives regarding the dams would be of benefit to everyone. "If the City and citizens are now interested in keeping the dams, then it speaks to the need for a different kind of discussion and dialogue. All alternatives need to be explored for keeping the dams - from those that require their removal and rebuilding, to those that would seek to mitigate any risk of the existing dams remaining to acceptable levels. For us that would mean bringing to the table how our Treaty protected fisheries would fit with each of those options", said Chief White. "We would support that kind of process, and would support it being a public process that would allow for Snuneymuxw, the City, as well as interested citizens to work together in a collaborative manner to review all alternatives. We think that such a process could be done in a relatively quick and transparent manner, and might benefit from a qualified and capable facilitator coming in to help all of us", he added.

Snuneymuxw is hoping to have a political level meeting with the City of Nanaimo next week. Respective staff are working to get that meeting organized. Snuneymuxw is also interested in hearing feedback from citizens about a new public process.

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