Squamish Nation Chief Gibby Jacob gave his assurance last week that there will be no loss of existing access to the New Brighton dock on Gambier Island if the Squamish Nation acquires the facility from Ottawa.
“It’s not to exclude the users who have had historic use, or the ability of the residents to get on or off the island when B.C. Ferries are running. There’s none of that,” Jacob, hereditary chief and principal spokesman for the Squamish Nation, said in an interview Nov. 16.
The Squamish Nation is “in the very early stages” of the divestiture process with the federal government, Jacob said.
The New Brighton public dock serves as Gambier Island’s passenger ferry terminal from Langdale. Transport Canada announced earlier this year that New Brighton was one of 15 federal docks included in a new round of divestitures.
One reason the Squamish Nation is interested in the property, Jacob said, is to secure unhindered access to the shore for canoe journeys and other traditional uses of the waters in its territory.
The Squamish historically had landing places on all the islands in Howe Sound, and large tribal journeys have become increasingly popular in recent years with some Squamish families, he said.
The Squamish Nation’s draft Xay Temixw (Sacred Land) land-use plan identifies canoe landing sites on Howe Sound islands as one of nine important natural or cultural areas in the territory that “community members have stated require high levels of protection.”
Another reason to acquire the dock, Jacob said, would be to generate revenue and possibly complement other Squamish Nation enterprises.
“We own two marinas [in North Vancouver] — Mosquito Creek and Lynnwood. Our ability to utilize this for some of our clients might be an option. Yacht clubs like to be able to move up and down,” Jacob said.
“That’s down the road, but those are some of the things we’ve been talking about. Hopefully it can evolve into something a little bigger than what it is now.”
Under Ottawa’s divestiture policy, federal funding for the dock would be phased out, and Jacob said the economics will be the big factor in deciding whether to proceed.
“If we’re acquiring it, we’ve got to make sure it’s, number one, self-sufficient, and two, it can bring in a bit of income for our Nation. Not very much, but something.”
The Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) has suggested exploring acquisition of the dock in a partnership with the Squamish Nation, but Jacob said it would be premature to open those discussions “if there’s nothing in it” and his council opts to withdraw its expression of intent.
The SCRD has also filed a letter of intent to acquire the dock, but directors learned last month that Transport Canada’s divestiture process gives first priority to federal agencies and First Nations.