Clarence Joe, who was secretary and spokesman for the Sechelt Nation in the middle of the last century, described a time during the settler period when the band was “way further advanced than the white men on the peninsula.” With revenue coming in from logging and from taxes imposed by the chiefs on each band member ($100 per man, $50 per woman), “every penny was saved” and the Nation built the largest community structures in the region. “They were well-organized,” Clarence Joe said.
That natural industriousness for which the Nation was famous would be held in check for many decades by the Indian Affairs bureaucracy in Ottawa, and over time the Village of Sechelt (as it became known) surpassed the band lands as the development hub on Trail Bay.
Today, however, the centre of activity seems to be shifting back to the Nation.
Last week Tsain-Ko Development Corp. announced that a Shoppers Drug Mart, a BC Cannabis Store and a Lordco Auto Parts outlet would soon join the new Tim Hortons as part of Phase 3 of Tsain-Ko Village Shopping Centre. Plans are also moving ahead for a six-storey complex on the lot between Big Mac’s and Raven’s Cry Theatre. It will contain about 10,000 sq. feet of commercial and retail space on the ground floor, community space on the second floor and affordable housing on the upper floors. Another major development on band lands, the Trellis long-term care home, is also waiting in the wings.
Contrast all this bustling activity with the sleepy village next door, euphemistically known as downtown Sechelt. Almost a year after the new council was elected, largely on a pro-development ticket, all is quiet on the western front. Staff, blaming “the development downturn,” reported earlier this month that the shortfall in development cost charges is almost $1 million. Licence, permit and fee revenues were all down in the second quarter, with planning fees plunging from 2016 levels. Nothing is visible on the horizon. In the same week that shíshálh Nation was unveiling major brick-and-mortar investments, Sechelt councillors were enthusing over a community branding exercise and a new “S” logo.
We won’t fault council for trying, but the sad reality is that Sechelt was branded like a steer last winter and national media coverage ensured that “S,” which used to be known in B.C. for running out of water, is now known nationwide as the place where million-dollar homes are sinking into the ground. These are real problems that can’t be smoothed over by a branding campaign. They have hurt development and will keep Sechelt down until they are adequately addressed.
Meanwhile, the action is shifting up the hill. Who knows what else Chief Warren Paull and his busy council have up their sleeves? Perhaps the natural order is simply being restored. We suspect that would be Clarence Joe’s explanation.