White Rock council – following confirmation that Totem Plaza was renamed in memory of Grand Chief Bernard Robert Charles – has endorsed a motion to begin discussions with SFN about renaming the entire park in his honour. (File photo)

White Rock report confirms 2009 re-naming of Totem Plaza

Council to next discuss overall park name with Semiahmoo First Nation

The Semiahmoo First Nation and the City of White Rock will have much to talk about in the new year.

First and foremost will be discussion of the formal city recognition of Grand Chief Bernard Robert Charles Plaza – and the East Beach park surrounding it – following a written report to council from corporate administration director Tracey Arthur.

That report, received on Dec. 16 – the last council meeting of 2019 – concluded that Totem Plaza had, in fact, already been renamed in memory of the late, widely respected SFN leader in 2009, during the administration of Mayor Catherine Ferguson, even though existing records are not clear on the process followed.

Council also endorsed a follow-up motion from Coun. David Chesney that the city begin discussions with SFN about renaming the entire park in honour of Charles, although chief administrative officer Dan Bottrill – noting the exhaustive process undertaken in determining the renaming of Totem Plaza – urged caution and consultation with all stakeholders before taking such a step.

READ ALSO: White Rock council takes step back on Totem Plaza renaming

READ ALSO: A step worthy of sure-footedness

The motion was carried with Mayor Darryl Walker the sole vote in opposition.

Coun. Helen Fathers – who made the original motion in July to formally rename the plaza for Charles – said the clarification provided by the report was welcome, although she noted she had been unhappy that it turned out to be such a long process.

“It’s really good to see this motion on the floor,” she said. “Sometimes we have to wait a long time to get the right thing done. This was the first ceremony I attended (on behalf of the city) back in 2009 and it was of vast importance at that time…it was always something that stuck very large in my mind.”

Fathers said she had been asked why it had taken her so long to raise the issue during her decade on council.

“Sometimes you have to find the right council to get the right approvals. I’m happy that this council is moving forward with the name of the Grand Chief Bernard Robert Charles Plaza, and I’m glad that we’re where we are today.”

Walker said the entire council has been intent on rebuilding a “strong and positive” relationship with SFN.

“I see this as one more step in building or rebuilding that relationship,” he said.

Also received by council at the meeting were recommendations from the city’s Marine Drive Task Force directly concerning SFN, most notably support for ongoing negotiations of servicing agreements between the city and the nation, which the task force said it sees “as an integral part of the revitalization of Marine Drive.”

The task force further recommended council consider ways of increasing funding to White Rock Museum and Archives to support environmental and cultural educational programming – in which SFN history would be included – and also that council consider allocating Community Amenity Contributions (CACs) from development to create signage in both English and Sencoten (the Straits Salish language) to support SFN storytelling and wayfinding on the waterfront.

In her report to council, Arthur wrote that, further to council’s request for a corporate report on Fathers’ motion to rename the plaza, “it does not appear necessary to rename the plaza.”

Interviews with participants at a 2009 ceremony at the plaza – and photos of the event – support that conclusion, Arthur wrote.

“The balance of evidence suggests that many were under the impression the plaza was already named in honour of (Grand Chief Charles),” she wrote.

“Most importantly, the Semiahmoo First Nation believe they went through the necessary process to conduct a ceremony and, following that, with witnesses present, the plaza was formally renamed, and not just a dedication ceremony.”

The renaming of the plaza has been disputed by some – including former mayors Wayne Baldwin and Hardy Staub – who had emphasized that the name Totem Plaza was a reflection of the importance of the RCMP-funded project created at the site in 1999.

As the report reiterated, the force had commissioned the totem and house pole at the plaza as a gesture of reconciliation and apology for its part in historic wrongs against First Nations peoples, including SFN, a step which Bottrill noted to council was a “groundbreaking” act at a time when moves toward reconciliation were not common.

Bottrill told council that in investigating the renaming of the plaza in 2009, staff had interviewed five of the six members of the council of that time, as well as Ferguson, SFN council, RCMP, former city staff members and event volunteers.

“(We) came to the conclusion that, although there wasn’t a formal resolution of council…there’s no question that it did occur with the express approval of the mayor’s office and Semiahmoo First Nation were given that approval.”

But, as he pointed out during council discussion of Chesney’s motion, there is also no doubt the surrounding park has long been known locally as Lions Lookout Park, due to the role now-defunct Lions service clubs on the peninsula had in establishing it, and was likely named that during one of Gordon Hogg’s terms in office as mayor.



alex.browne@peacearchnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Surrey seniors call Seniors’ Centre Without Walls, a new-to-B.C. program

‘Crazy coincidence’ saw program connect soon after COVID-19 pandemic hit

Surrey pushing the poor out of Whalley, public hearing speakers say

‘There is a war on the poor here in Surrey,’ resident Dave Diewert tells city council

IHIT investigating death of Surrey woman

Injured woman was taken to SMH early Tuesday morning

Charges laid in 2019 single-vehicle crash in Surrey that killed young soccer star

Dilpreet Sandhu, 19, faces eight charges in early morning crash that killed Brandon Bassi

Surrey Mounties seize guns, drugs and cash from Guildford residence

One man was arrested but no charges have been laid as investigation continues

If Trudeau won’t stand up to Trump, how will regular people: Singh

Trudeau did not directly answer a question about Trump’s actions amid protests

Death toll rises at Langley Lodge

Another senior has died from the COVID-19 virus

Family of dead B.C. football star urge changes to mental health policies in hospitals

Uko family disappointed in actions of Regina hospital, hosting public funeral service this weekend

22 new COVID-19 test-positives, one death following days of low case counts in B.C.

Health officials urged British Columbians to ‘stand together while staying apart’

Help the ‘Cloverdale Reporter’ continue its mission to provide trusted local news

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

John Horgan says COVID-19 restrictions won’t be eased regionally

B.C. Liberals urge ‘tailored’ response based on infections

Feds get failing grade for lack of action plan on anniversary of MMIWG report

‘Instead of a National Action Plan, we have been left with a Lack-of-Action Plan’

Maple Ridge woman fights WorkSafe BC over police widow’s pension

Dalila Vroom says husband, Const. Rob Vroom, died as a result of PTSD from time with Abbotsford PD

B.C. ranchers, lodge operators say Indigenous land title shuts them out

Tsilhqot’in jurisdiction affects grazing, access to private property

Most Read