Tuesday, September 16, 2014
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COPE backs First Nations votes on Vancouver city council

by Stephen Hui


A member of the City of Vancouver’s urban aboriginal peoples’ advisory committee is applauding a proposal from the Coalition of Progressive Electors to give three local First Nations votes on city council.

Mona Woodward, executive director of the Aboriginal Front Door Society, told the Georgia Straight the committee doesn’t have any “legal voting right” and can only offer its “perspective and advice” to the city.

“This is a really significant move forward by COPE, and a very positive one at that,” Woodward, who identifies as Cree, Lakota, and Saulteaux, said by phone from the Downtown Eastside. “I think that it’s been long overdue to include First Nations in all of the current issues that go before council.”

On July 6, COPE members approved an election platform that supports the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations each gaining “representation” on council.

“COPE will support thorough dialogue with indigenous people, communities, and nations to mutually determine implementation of this policy,” the platform states.

Rosanne Gervais, the party’s aboriginal caucus representative, told the Straight that COPE must still consult with the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh on a “fair and equal” basis with regard to the policy.

“We have the intention, but a lot of the people that we would traditionally consult with are away, and I cannot make any comment until such time as we’ve had time to dialogue with all the nations,” Gervais, who is Métis, said by phone from Aboriginal Front Door’s drop-in centre.

Representatives of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh didn’t respond to interview requests by deadline. On June 25, Vancouver council voted unanimously to formally acknowledge that the city lies on the unceded traditional territory of the three First Nations.

In its platform, COPE also pledges to “create an inventory of colonial place names which carry an inappropriate legacy and prepare replacement names in consultation” with aboriginal peoples. As well, the party promises to “participate in popular education and awareness on the issue of residential school redress”.

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