Aside from the newsworthy event of the evening, we had a pretty light agenda for our first May meeting, which was probably good in light of the diverse and lengthy public delegations we heard.
We started by moving the following items on Consent:
New Westminster Reconciliation Consultant and Framework Development
As I alluded to last week, Council has been unanimous in support of reconciliation, and in taking a thoughtful, intentional, and respectful approach to the work. We have endorsed the Calls to Action in the report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, and are dedicated to establishing a respectful and comprehensive dialogue with the community about New Westminster’s unique role in the colonial history of Western Canada. Before we were part of Canada, we were the capital of the colony – this is the place where the Royal Engineers, the armed force enforcing colonialization – was stationed. This is the place where Governors Douglas and Seymour presided over colonial administration, this is also a place where Qayqayt people rested on the river, and a place honoured in many stories of Sto:lo people.
This report outlines the framework to do that work that has been established after months of work by staff and consultants, rising out of several discussions with Council. It has been said, as recently as last week at Council, that Truth needs to come before Reconciliation, and the only way to arrive at that truth is through dialogue, through telling our stories, and hearing the stories of others. But this is often the hardest part. How do we create spaces where people feel free to have frank and sometimes challenging discussions? And how do we decide whose stories are vital to our local dialogue, in a place with such a protracted history, a place that in many ways wears that history on its sleeve. How do we have those discussions in a way that doesn’t cause people to close their ears? These are not easy questions, and we will not always hit the mark in answering them. But we will try, and we committed to doing it with care and intention.
Of course, for the second week in a row, we tossed this framework aside, so I really don’t know what is coming next.
Amendments to the 2019 Schedule of Regular Council Meetings
We are adjusting some Council schedules to add a Public Hearing to the September 9 meeting. However, since Public Hearings are night when we don’t have Public Delegation, staff recommended moving our regular Queensborough meeting to October, because it would be weird to go to Queensborough and not do Public Delegation while we are there.
Recruitment 2019: Seniors Advisory Committee (SAC) Appointment
One of the agencies with a representative on the Seniors Advisory Committee is changing members, which apparently we need to approve. So done.
315 and 326 Mercer Street (Queensborough Eastern Neighbourhood Node): Zoning Amendment Bylaw No. 8113, 2019 – For Two Readings
Two properties within the “Eastern Node” – an area in Queensborough at the east end of Ewen Avenue that bridges the gap between Single-family-house Q’Boro and Port Royal – need to be rezoned to align with the land use planned for the entire Eastern Node master plan. These lands will eventually bring some neighbourhood-serving retail and services to Port Royal. This application will have a Public Hearing on May 27. C’mon out and tell us what you think.
Multi Family Rental Residential Tenure Zoning: Zoning Amendment Bylaw No. 8123, 2019 – Consideration of Two Readings
The City strives to be transparent and accurate in communicating how our Bylaws work, and in that interest we clarifying some of the language around how the recent change to the Rental Residential Tenure. We are not changing the zoning per se, but staff thought it best that this adjustment be through a full public process with full notice because of the sensitivity of the topic. There will be a Public Hearing on May 27, so I will hold my comments until then.
The following item was Removed from Consent for discussion:
Child Care Update: Proposed City and School District Facilities
Access to childcare has been at near-crisis levels in New West for a long time, and we are not the only City in the Lower Mainland feeling this crunch. The new provincial government has some new funding available, and there are some new School District projects coming along that make this an opportune time for the City to partner and make more spaces available. If this all comes together, we will have almost 150 new childcare spaces opened in our most underserved areas of Queensborough and Sapperton. This will provide a mix of infant, toddler, and after-school care, though council did not e that after school care is a vital need not being served right now, especially in the East End.
The money is coming from several sources: the City and the School district are applying for Childcare BC New Spaces Fund grants for a few projects, the City already received a Child Care Major Capital Funding Grant, we also have Community Amenity Funding from a developer, and will pull some money from our internal reserves. The City, School District and a developer are all contributing land and buildings to house these childcares. Council moved ot endorse this strategy.
Our regular Bylaws dance included adopting the following:
Tax Rates Bylaw No. 8105, 2019
The Bylaw that officially sets our tax rates for 2019 was adopted.
Uptown New Westminster Business Improvement Area Parcel Tax Bylaw No. 8112, 2019;
Downtown New Westminster Business Improvement Area (Primary Area) Parcel Tax Bylaw No. 8114, 2019; and
Downtown New Westminster Business Improvement Area (Secondary Area) Parcel Tax Bylaw No. 8115, 2019
These Bylaws that set the rates for the BIA parcel taxes was adopted.
Heritage Revitalization Agreement (218 Queens Avenue) Bylaw No. 8064, 2019
The HRA Bylaw that allows a subdivision and protection to three heritage houses in the Queens Park neighbourhood was adopted by Council.
We then had one piece of New Business:
Removal of Judge Begbie Statue
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED
THAT the City of New Westminster remove the Judge Begbie statue from its position of power in front of the Provincial Court house; and
THAT the City of New Westminster engage in a conversation with the Tsilhqot’in Nation about the history and legacy of Judge Begbie and the effects his decisions had on generations of their people; and
THAT the City work with the Museum and Archives, the community, and the Tsilqot’in Nation to find an appropriate place for the statue; and
THAT the City of New Westminster engage in a process of consultation to find an appropriate place to tell the history of the Chilcotin War.
I spoke against the motion, recognizing some may perceive that as my being opposed to or obstinate towards our reconciliation process. However, I am acting only based on what wiser people have told me about having a truthful and open approach to reconciliation, and based on that, I fear this action is the kind of thing that can set us back. Nothing I heard in the delegations tonight assuaged those concerns. So I guess I need to unpack this a bit, in fear I did not express myself adequately at Council.
I have been told that Truth must come before Reconciliation. That means before we take arbitrary actions, we engage our community and those people impacted by those actions – especially the people we seek to honour with our actions – in a respectful conversation. We listen to their stories, we share our experiences, we open our ears before we lift our tools. Then we lift those tools together.
I hope, perhaps naively, that we can build a respectful space where our community can have these conversations, and come out the other end with better understanding. However, we have clearly not yet had these conversations. As a city, we have not yet begun to hear, to share, or to learn. Instead we, as a City, spent the weekend bickering on Facebook then spent two hours in Council speaking past each other – with no-one in the room speaking from the Tsilhqot’in, no one speaking from the QayQayt, from the Kwikwetlem. No-one in that meeting expressed that they were speaking from an indigenous experience.
There were many there who seemed to speak for them, but we did not want to take time to hear from them.
At the same time, we managed to close many people’s ears in our community to the discussions we are going to have to have in New Westminster – difficult discussions in light of our unique role in the colonization of British Columbia. Not just the home of Judge Begbie, but the home of Governors Douglas and Seymour, home of the Sappers, a City named by the Queen of England and head of the Anglican Church. We are surrounded by colonial baggage, and cannot dispatch it all, even to put all of it in a context that fits our modern idea of justice will be hard work. Hard work we need to do. It will be made harder if we choose to divide with our early actions, opening the opportunity for those to undermine the intent by lobbing ideas from trenches at each other. Every delegate speaking at Council tonight was respectful and considered, and I thank them for that. But how many of them listened to the people “on the other side”? Tried to put their minds to where that person was coming from? Were we really all there with open ears? Was this a dialogue?
When the John A McDonald statue was removed last year in Victoria, it was done following a year of conversation with the “City Family”, the inclusive framework used for reconciliation for their City. A year-long process of deliberation, dialogue and truth-sharing brought them to the point where they understood the meaning of the act, and were ready to share that meaning in a fulsome way with the larger community. We are not there yet. Yes, they had “backlash” when the statue was moved, but at least they could, with integrity, say “we have heard your concerns, we have considered your concerns, we take this action with due respect to your concerns, because we believe it moves the conversation forward”. Can we honestly say that?
If we are going to work with integrity and an open heart, and build the willingness to act meaningfully, I hope we can get to the place where the Begbie Statue, the John Robson plaque on City Hall, the Tin soldier, and other symbols in the City that have different impacts depending on the lens they are viewed through, can be addressed in a way that heals, not in a way that divides. We are not there yet, so I could not support this action at this time.
We have so much work to do. I ask that everyone keep an open heart and open ears.
And that was the business of the night. Happy May!