As Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden presented her municipality’s case for an updated Official Community Plan (OCP) to the province this week, the Lil’wat Nation still wants their concerns addressed before the draft can move forward.
The OCP is a provincially-mandated document that sets out a municipality’s plan regarding issues like land usage and development and must be done in consultation with surrounding First Nations communities.
The proposed amendments to Whistler’s OCP would be the first comprehensive overhaul to the document since 1993.
Mayor Wilhelm-Morden and Chief Administrative Officer Mike Furey met with a provincial assistant deputy minister Monday (Sept. 24) regarding the draft OCP at the Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) Convention in Victoria.
The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the contents of the draft OCP and to relay the muni’s hopes “to get it over to Victoria for approval some time at the end of October or into November,” said Wilhelm-Morden.
“(The assistant deputy minister) didn’t see any hurdles to that. We had quite a thorough discussion so it was very positive,” she said.
Lucinda Phillips, chief of the Lil’wat First Nation, disagreed with Wilhelm-Morden in an email to The Question, saying her community’s position remains unchanged since a letter was submitted to the mayor and B.C.’s Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development, Ida Chong.
“We cannot accept an OCP that covers a significant portion of Crown land within our territory, ignores our aboriginal rights and title and has the effect of freezing Lil’wat out of any possible economic benefit from these lands within our territory,” the email stated.
The municipality recently sat down with members of the Lil’wat and Squamish nations to discuss their concerns surrounding the OCP, with the mayor calling the two-hour meeting “a good exchange of information.”
“It was a continuation of a number of years of dialogue on the OCP and getting their views,” said Furey following last Tuesday’s (Sept. 18) council meeting. “Their concerns are in a number of areas relating to their Aboriginal rights and title,” he added.
“We are encouraged that the RMOW agreed to sit down with us and hear our concerns about the OCP,” said Phillips in the email. “We are hopeful that this continuing dialogue will allow us to move towards an OCP that recognizes our legitimate claims and aspirations within the RMOW boundary.”
An August amendment to the draft OCP included a statement acknowledging the Lil’wat and Squamish Nations’ claim to their traditional land.
"There are no First Nations Reserve lands within the RMOW boundary, but there are substantial Crown lands within the municipal boundary and in adjacent rural areas which could play a role in settlements of Aboriginal rights and title claims,” the document stated.
The OCP update went on to outline the area’s Aboriginal communities’ interest in exploring economic and tourism initiatives with the municipality as well as their hopes to promote the protection of First Nation history and culture with the help of the RMOW and the province.
Representatives from the Squamish Nation did not respond to The Question’s requests for comment.