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Province updates SCRD, mayors on proposed swiya dock management plan changes

'The ministers were attentive to the questions and concerns we brought forward' was SCRD chair Leonard Lee's summation of a Feb. 23 meeting with provincial representatives on matters including the application for changes to the swiya dock management plan.

Sunshine Coast local government officials met with the Minister of Water, Land and Resource Stewardship Nathan Cullen and Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation Murray Rankin last month regarding subjects that included the shíshálh swiya dock management plan (DMP). While Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) chair Leonard Lee wouldn't get into specifics of what was discussed, he said that, “The ministers were attentive to the questions and concerns we brought forward.”

Lee and SCRD chief administrative officer Dean McKinley made the trip to Victoria for the Feb. 23 meeting and all SCRD board members and council members from Coast municipalities were invited to participate virtually. Those who attended included others from the board and local area mayors John Henderson and Silas White but not shíshálh government district director Philip Paul. Provincial ministry staff were also present.

What happens with public DMP comments

When asked if they learned details on to future of proposed DMP changes, Lee said “I can’t go into everything discussed…we did make it very clear just how important it is that the community’s voice is heard through the process. We also asked that the provincial government ensure that the community is aware of how comments they provided are being considered as the plan moves forward.”

As for next steps in the application process, Lee said it was explained that the province is compiling a “What we heard” document about the input received in the public comment period that lasted from late November until Feb. 16. At the meeting, it was indicated an internal draft of that report was to be completed in the coming weeks. He said the goal indicated was to make the final version available to the public tentatively before the end of the month.

As he was copied on “a lot” of what the province reported were about 1,700 individual DMP public comment submissions, Lee said he advised the province “that those submissions reflect what is important to our residents." Asked for his thoughts about the comments that were sent in, including submissions from the Pender Harbour Residents Association, that area’s Chamber of Commerce, swiya Lakes Stewardship Alliance and Waterfront Protection Coalition, Lee said he had “no argument with the vast majority of the opinions expressed."

On the issue of the application’s public review process igniting hateful or racist comments locally, the chair said, “The vast majority of comments I have seen or received have been constructive in nature and respectful in tone. My request all along has been for those who wish to express their concerns, including those who are in serious opposition to the plan to ensure that the dialogue remains respectful.”

SCRD reiterates effective consultation asks

Lee said he stressed to the ministers “the importance of maintaining and respecting our First Nations' mandate to negotiate rights and title issues with the province and their duty to represent their Nations' members and our province's duty to negotiate on behalf of all residents of British Columbia and inform us during negotiations and after any agreements reached." 

On other matters discussed with the province at that recent gathering, Lee said local elected officials reiterated a previous ask for “equal collaboration between the province, Indigenous communities and local governments as envisioned by the 2021 UBCM Memorandum of Understanding." In addition, they repeated calls for the SCRD to have representation at various shíshálh Foundation Agreement tables, as well as for effective consultation with our various area residents' associations on the DMP.

As for the SCRD board's request to the province made at a special meeting held Nov. 30 that the DMP public comment period remain open until mid-May, Lee said no formal response was received. His understanding is that the two extensions introduced by the province; first from mid-December 2023 to Jan. 12, followed by an extension to Feb. 16, were considered by the senior government as its response to that ask. 

In mid-February, Coast Reporter contacted the province for input on matters related to the DMP and consultation with the SCRD but did not receive comment as of March 3.