Snuneymuxw leaders have publicly expressed exasperation over the First Nation’s ongoing relationship with Nanaimo Port Authority, following a meeting with new port authority president and CEO, Ewan Moir.
In a press release issued Tuesday, Snuneymuxw First Nation chief John Wesley and Douglas White III, councillor and chief negotiator, said Snuneymuxw was disappointed “no new approaches, shifts or understanding about the Douglas Treaty or the relationship with Snuneymuxw were presented” by Moir during the meeting.
Moir officially took over as the port authority’s president and CEO on Oct. 10.
The press release went on to list several concerns Wesley and White had with answers to questions put to Moir by the men regarding whether Snuneymuxw treaty rights should be recognized and respected, how treaty rights influence port authority decision-making, operations and practices and whether treaty rights were discussed during Moir’s hiring process.
The press release also stated Moir informed Wesley and White the port authority has been developing a project proposal for the Nanaimo Assembly Wharf, which Snuneymuxw had not previously been notified about.
“We were shocked to hear that Snuneymuxw specific knowledge was not a part of the interview and hiring process for this important role,” Wesley said in the press release. This is entirely out of line with Canada’s commitment to importance of nation-to-nation relations based on recognition of rights and true partnership. It is incomprehensible that a federal crown agency considers its relationship with SFN as an afterthought in the hiring process for their new CEO.”
Moir said the meeting with Wesley and White ran about 90 minutes, he considered it a good meeting and had no issues with the Snuneymuxw press release.
“I’m not at all uncomfortable with the meeting. I thought it was a good first meeting,” Moir said.
He said he went into the meeting with an open mind, that he wants to be educated and is willing to learn, but he also explained that he treats everyone as individuals and not as groups or nations.
“I look at us all as equals and that’s how you have to operate,” Moir said.
Regarding the assembly wharf project, Moir said discussions about it began in the late summer before he joined the port authority. Because of non-disclosure agreements, he cannot discuss details about the project.
“I said it’s gone from a project that is interesting to a project that is fairly hot in a relatively short period of time … It’s a light industrial project,” Moir said. “It would be great for the Nanaimo Assembly Wharf and it would be great for the community and the region, but like any project, it can go from boiling hot to no, this is not going to happen, in a matter of days. It’s just at the stage just now where there’s a lot of discussion taking place on it.”
White said in the release that the meeting “unfortunately confirmed that it is business as usual at the Nanaimo Port Authority” and that the federal government for the past two years has said its most important relationship is with indigenous peoples and that it must operate and function in recognition and respect of treaty and other aboriginal rights “yet a crown agent is still acting in this manner.” White went on to categorize the situation as “egregious” and said Snuneymuxw would continue its work with the Nanaimo Marina Association and the city to develop an alternative to the Nanaimo Port Authority.
Moir said he is looking at ways to continue regular meetings and dialogue.
“That was our first face-to-face meeting,” Moir said. “I came away from the meeting having enjoyed the conversation and … with the idea that we’ve got to do more of these. We’ve got to build the relationship between the organizations,” Moir said. “We’ve got to be moving forward and the only way to do that is by getting together and having discussions.”