In the Community

The Squamish Nation Project may be one of healing


The Squamish Nation has plans for a housing project where these units will be put up on the land adjacent to the Burrard Bridge.

The plans are still being discussed and are in progress, but you can bet there’ll be a lot to figure out regarding the kinds of housings will be built for the city. There’s already some debate about this topic. But council members are still trying to weigh in the benefits while keeping in mind consideration of the current local residents needs versus the future of people who will need homes, such as young people and young families.

This development case is different from most as it is entirely located on reserve land. This means that City Hall will have to power or jurisdiction over the project. They won’t be able to regulate what is built.

Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart is quoted in the Vancouver Sun as saying “the prospect of new rental units in our city is exciting, as is the opportunity for the Squamish Nation to further strengthen their community.”

The Location of the Area of Interest

Squamish Nation owns 11.7 acres of land at the south end of Burrard Bridge.
(Source: Vancouver Courier)

The Squamish Nation site is just south of Kits Point and touches Arbutus Street. The nearest neighbours are the Molson brewery, a high-rise apartment building on the corner of Burrard Street and Cornwall Avenue, and a condo by Granville Island.

The land forms a T-shape at the end of the Burrard Bridge. Although the land is shaped unusually, the team working on the development are determined to make full use of it. Building 3,000 units of housing on the 11-acre site means that the development will be dense.

The Squamish Nation won’t limit themselves because of unusual shape. They are using this as an opportunity to get creative. And if the need arises, they will even look at the possibility of using the land under the bridge.

The City of Vancouver has no say in what happens to the property, however, there are plans to negotiate on a service agreement.

The significance of the project

What it means for the Squamish People

Using this space is a big deal for the Squamish Nation. There is a lot of historical significance to this land. In the past, the Squamish people were displaced there. They were physically removed from the site and sent packing. The most troubling part about this is that it wasn’t too long ago when this happened.

The Squamish people have lived on the land for thousands of years. They’ve seen the city be built into what it is today, and they still watch as the city continues to grow. They’ve also seen how the wealth from the city is used for the government, while their own people live in poverty.

“We have a lower average income than the rest of the average Canadian,” said Khelsilem to the Vanvouer Courier. Khelsilem is a Squamish Nation Councillor speaking about the project.

“Our community, we have lots of aspirations,” Khelsilem shared. The Squamish Nation want to see their students move onto post-secondary institutions. They want their people to flourish on the same level as the rest of the city, and they hope to use the profits from this development to provide more for their own people.

Taking this step forward to build rental property is a huge ordeal. It could be seen as an important journey of reconciliation.

What it means for the Kitsilano Community

A lot will change in Kitsilano. While the property is oddly shaped, this only means that the designers can be more creative. The Vancouver Courier spoke to Sadhu Johnston about the new development, and he was quoted saying, “we’ve done Vancouver House and other projects that are quite creative in the way they integrate with the infrastructure.”

The Squamish Nation has its own approval process and it’s not yet certain how they will engage with the City of Vancouver. But this uncertainty is not something to fear. We should view the development as one of healing that will further unite the Squamish people to their land and to the people of the Kitsilano community.

You may see more new faces frequenting community centres, libraries and other city services. This development, which will likely be rental, will bring many new faces to the community and could be a window to offering more affordable housing to new families and young adults.

Similar Projects

There are also two other major real estate projects in Vancouver in planning that involve First Nation groups: the Jericho Lands development in West Point Grey, and a location at the Heather Land in the Cambie Corridor.

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