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NEWSMAKERS: White takes centre stage on issues

Chief Doug White put Snuneymuxw First Nation issues front and centre in 2013. - News Bulletin file
Chief Doug White put Snuneymuxw First Nation issues front and centre in 2013.
— image credit: News Bulletin file

Involvement in two of Nanaimo’s high-profile news stories of 2013, amongst other things, has current Snuneymuxw First Nation Chief Doug White III as a newsmaker in 2013.

The Colliery dams were a polarizing topic and one that captured local, provincewide and national attention, as people and politicians debated the removal of the Harewood dams.

The middle and lower dams were set to be taken down in July but thanks to a 30-day consultation process initiated by White and Snuneymuxw, Nanaimo city council eventually voted unanimously to cancel a tender that would have seen demolition of the dams, opting instead to examine short-term mitigation.

Mayor John Ruttan said the consultation prevented any reasonable chance of dam removal this season.

Parents continue to fume about Nanaimo school district’s 10-year Enhanced Facilities for Learning Plan. As part of the plan, schools were closed in 2013 but an impending school closure was the basis of legal action that White and Snuneymuxw are taking against the school district.

The closure of Cedar Community Secondary School at end of the 2013-14 school year earned the ire of many and Snuneymuxw First Nation first announced it was launching legal action in September, filing an application for a judicial review of the decision to close Cedar-area schools in December – Woodbank Elementary and North Cedar Intermediate schools were also named.

Snuneymuxw pays $1 million a year to the school district and White said there was a lawful obligation for the district to consult with the First Nation regarding school closures, something he says didn’t happen.

In addition, White signed a reconciliation agreement with the provincial government in March and in May, he and Snuneymuxw announced an agreement with Waterfront Holdings Ltd. regarding collaboration on current and future waterfront development. Two weeks ago, White announced a $1.7-million project that will see a sewage line built for two reserves as well as a pump station.

His term as chief will end in February however, as he was narrowly defeated by 13 votes in the Snuneymuxw First Nation election earlier in December to councillor John Wesley.

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