Noticed UBC in the national news lately? It’s probably because of the University Golf Course. So what exactly is happening? How about an explanation – in timeline form.

1990: Developer David Ho leases the University Golf Course, on University Boulevard, from the provincial government. The land has what’s called a “restrictive covenant” attached to it, which means that it must stay as a golf course until the government says otherwise.

2003: The government decides to sell the course to UBC for $11 million. As part of the deal, UBC agrees to keep operating it as a golf course.

2004: The Musqueam First Nation sues the University as well as the provincial government. The claim the land and that the government was getting rid of it to frustrate their claim. (Note: First Nations can only claim land that’s still property of the Crown. Had the government sold the land, the Musqueam would have lost any claim they otherwise would have had.)

2005: The BC Supreme Court, applying Haida/Taku, finds that the government had a duty to consult with the Musqueam before selling the land. (However, they find no legal duty on UBC’s part to consult.) The Court puts the sale on hold for two years, while the government consults.

2007: The Globe and Mail reports that the government is planning to transfer the golf course land to the Musqueam.

As you may have noticed, it’s kind of a big deal. First Nations across Canada have been increasingly asserting their rights, and deliberately ramping up the public affairs rhetoric. Tomorrow had been claimed as a “Day of Action;” the scope of the protests will be significant. On the other hand, a variety of locals are, well, restless. Some UBC old-timers (Bob Hindmarch, Marty Zlotnik) are up in arms, and there’s threats that this could cost Gordon Campbell his Point Grey seat. There’s a self-appointed “town hall” this evening.

There are some significant long-term issues here:

  • Will the restrictive covenant bind the Musqueam? Can the Crown restrict the land once it’s been handed in a land claim settlement?
  • Will the Musqueam pull a UBC and develop the hectares of prime real estate and become a UBC-style land developer?
  • What’s UBC’s position? Do they still want the golf course?
  • How does having Musqueam land inside Endowment Lands impact UBC’s governance?

It’s a fascinating time to be watching this one.


15 Comments so far

  1. Anonymous on June 29, 2007 4:06 am

    What the Musqueam nation is exerting is not a right. Please do not confuse it as such.

    To demand land that was once the ancestral home of your people when there was no city here is not a right. Its a demand. To want an undoing of something that happened hundreds of years ago is not a right. Its either a wish that should be addressed to a Genie or a demand that need be seen as such.

    It is in fact unjust and unfair for one group of individuals to seek to benefit from the various benefits of what European civilization brought and then demanding that they are compensated for what someone’s grand grand grand grand father may or may not have wrongfully sized (I still wonder what that actually means? are we trying to rule past conquest (military or otherwise) somehow null and void? should Quebec be returned to France? New England to the UK? I’m confused as to where this logic ends).

    In any case, the Musqueam seem to want to benefit from the benefits that the city of Vancouver brings (high property values, for one) while condemning and denouncing the entire process itself.

    By similar logic, European nations would be suing each other over land claims until kingdom come.

    The biggest problem that is facing the first nations of this country is not that they were deprived of their land. It is a victim mentality propagated by a broken system of wasted government handouts and restrictions. Yes the have been abused. Yes they have been mistreated. Yes they have been mismanaged. Land claims and more government compensation is not a proactive solution to a very real problem. If anything, it deters a real solution by masking the problem in a flood of easy cash.

    Freedom means sometimes having to make tough decisions. Its time that people started realizing this.

  2. Blake on June 29, 2007 4:48 am

    I heard on the news tonight that if the Province hands over the golf course land to the Musqueam nation that there would be a clause which would require the land to remain as a golf course for at least the next 25 years.

  3. Maayan Kreitzman on June 29, 2007 5:19 am

    Yes, the Musqueam chief has already said that there would be no development until 2033 at least.

    I agree with anonymous 9:03 that money, or even more land will not necessarily solve all of the social problems in native communities. Lets face it, native communities in urbanized areas cannot (and probably have no desire to ) go back to their traditional way of life. The only actual solution is real economic integration and development, coupled with investment and recognition of cultural instituations and traditions – most importatnly language. But prosperity relies on personal initiative usually. Reliance, be it on the current (awful) indian act, or on some future treaty is not likely to bring about the social improvement needed. I think land claims are utterly legitimate, and should be dealt with quickly and respectfully, but I fear that they arent the only answer to all things.

    Anyway, I just got back from the town hall meeting Tim metioned. The atmosphere was quite jarring. Apparently middle-aged white people can be less benign than they look. The audience essentially shouted down, heckled, and jeered at anybody (including a couple UBC students) who went up to speak who didn’t share their indignation at this deal. It was quite, quite mortifying. More on this later.

  4. Anonymous on June 29, 2007 2:19 pm

    But how does one deal with a land claim for so long ago? How do you compensate for something with an unknown cost? Who do you compensate? Is it fair just to compensate whoever is now a member of the band? is that not too restrictive? People that are 1/16 native? isn’t that too wide?

    The Musqueam have pretty much claimed all of Vancouver, is that not correct? How is that even reasonable? It would appear that they have come to the table in bad faith. Instead of moving on and focusing on the future, they’re trying to use society’s guilt for their own private gain.

    Why should today’s tax payers shoulder a burden of paying for these land claims?

  5. maayan on June 29, 2007 4:07 pm

    Well, I don’t know a whole lot about it, but it’s my understanding that the musqueam have claimed their entire “traditional territory”. the coast used to be divided up among the various native bands. They clearly don’t expect title over vancouver. It’s more of a statement. Anyway, treaty negotiations only occur with government, so only crown land is up for grabs in a land claim. Obviously a settlement that’s practical and not a huge burden on taxpayers is best. That’s why I think this particular one is so benign – it’s basically no inconvenience to anyone (for at least 25 years).
    I don’t really know about the more fundamental questions you’re asking. The fact is that the treaty process is the one the government is engaged in. I don’t see that stopping. But maybe a framework for economic development (as opposed to compensation) is needed?

  6. Anonymous on June 30, 2007 1:46 am

    Tristan here:
    It should be noted that the Supreme Court of BC determined that the province purposefully offloaded the golf course to UBC in 2003 in order to undermine treaty negotiations soon to be underway, the framework already being established. The Province was alienating Crown land, one of the very few parcels of crown land on the negotiating table. (The province had already tried to offload what is now Pacific Spirit Park to the GVRD in the late 80s for the same reason – Musqueam also sought an injunction to stop that, and the GVRD refused to accept ownership of the land without a notwithstanding clause that recognized the reality of Musqueam’s claim).
    In a word, the Province was negotiating in bad faith, and creating huge problems. Fraud. The court then ORDERED them to resolve the dispute over the golf course within two years. They have dragged their feet, and now the two years is up, and they have to negotiate a solution to this now, as ordered by the courts. They have no choice, or else face more legal challenges and further frustrate the possibility of a respectful reconciliation. This is not occuring within the treaty framework. The Province tried to cheat, and the courts caught them, and now the Province’s time is up, and their old strategy of denial, ignorance, and disrespect is not an option.

  7. Anonymous on June 30, 2007 1:55 am

    tristan here:
    as for the anonymous person who is philosophizing about the left of time that must transpire in order for a theft (of land, or whatever theft) to become legitimate, I agree that is an interesting question, but I recomend, if you are going to theorize the subtleties of such a question, that you cultivate an understanding of historical time, local time, how many generations have passed between the theft of Musqueam’s land until now. I won’t tell you the answers. Look it up, read a book, think about it, philosophize some more about how long after a theft it is rendered just, and decide whether enough time has passed.
    Also, consider the very real effects that denial of aboriginal rights and title have on presently existing communities, right now, right here under our noses.
    Uninformed philosophizing over the passage and meaning of time will not help.
    A familiarity with local history will.

  8. Anonymous on June 30, 2007 1:55 am

    i meant “length of time”

  9. Anonymous on June 30, 2007 6:35 pm

    Oh come now. So are you drawing a difference between theft of land and conquest? It is legitimate for say the English to shoot their way into Quebec City and take it from the French, but it is not legitimate for them to move onto “traditional lands” of Natives. I realize that this is a weak argument, but thats exactly my point. Neither makes much sense. All you’re really doing is trying to make yourself feel better for being born in a more fortunate social position by giving society’s lands over to people who have in the past been abused. Why don’t people give over their own private homes as part of land claims? How is a claim on the Golf Course more ‘actual/relevant/real’ than a claim on say 10th and Alama. Why don’t the affluent upper-class give up their fancy homes on West Point Grey to make up for the taking of ‘traditional lands’ from the natives.

    Its because that rationally, people (and their elected governments) realize that the land claims are pretty much ridiculous but they also feel guilty for other people’s suffering. So they pick the easy way out. Give them some sort of token land so they’ll shut up.

    Sadly, what ends up happening is that nothing changes. The natives don’t get any better off because they become even less willing to reasses their problems because they get tricked into thinking that getting a Golf Course is somehow going to make their lives better. Its not. Nor will it make up for whatever past indiscretions were committed against their ancestors by other people’s ancestors.

    Its time to let bygones be bygones and move on.

    The entire thing is almost as ridiculous as ‘traditional’ whale hunting with canoes and rifles.

  10. Anonymous on July 4, 2007 10:47 pm

    You don’t need to believe in Aboriginal rights, like anonymous above, to support the BC-Musqueam deal. You only need to respect the rule of law and the judgment of the BC Court of Appeal. Read it for yourself: Musqueam Indian Band v. BC (2005 BCCA 128)

    And I’m not convinced by claims on this board that the underlying questions are ‘ancient history.’ It’s the history of everyone who now lives here. To choose but one example (and I’ll be the first to admit it’s a complex past):

    In 1873, Canada ordered lands set aside for First Nations in what is now BC. The legally-binding Order-in-Council instructed that:

    “sufficient Reserves on a liberal and just scale [shall] be set apart and marked off in a survey, for the various bands of that Province…. [and] that each family be assigned a location of 80 acres of land, of average quality, which shall remain permanently the property of each family for whose benefit it is allotted.

    “That it is a matter of urgent importance to convince the Indians of that Promise that the Government of the Dominion will do full justice to the rights of the Indian population and thus remove the spirit of discontent which in various quarters appears to prevail. … that authority be at once given to [Indian Commissioner] Dr. Powell to confer with the Local [BC] Government in regard to Indian Reserves already set apart… [and] also for the setting apart of such additional Reserves as in his judgement he may deem important for the purposes of fulfilling the just expectations of these Indians. “*

    BC refused to act and managed to stall the most of the process until 1938.

    *Order-in Council, conveyed by Prime Minister John A. MacDonald to Governor-General Frederick Temple Hamilton-Temple-Blackwood, Earl of Dufferin and Viscount Clandeboy, 21 March 1873, RG10, Vol. 3583, File 1062.

  11. Anonymous on July 5, 2007 2:05 am

    Alas, the court case that seems to have stared this whole brouhaha isn’t actually anything to do with whether the Musqueam are entitled to this land. It revolves around the Province’s breach of duty to allow for proper consultation as per its own criteria. (Correct me if I am wrong).

    This still leaves the whole land claims issue unresolved.

    While I do agree, the rule of law must not only be done but be seen as being done, I do not think that the letter of the law is either definite or absolute. No, as a matter of fact, laws are constantly changing and evolving to better fit the reality of our world. I see this as a good thing for this enables new laws to reverse old and mistaken or misguided ones. stare decisis et non quieta movere is not a be all and end all. Luckily, we live in a progressive society that learns from its mistakes.

    While I may have a lot of respect for Sir John A. Macdonald and his contemporaries, I do believe that they were wrong in this case. Native reserves have long ago proven to be failed creations. I won’t go into that any further because I don’t think I need to.

    With all due respect to the past, times have changed and the solutions of the 1873 have long ago proven to be inadequate.

    In fact from that very statement the user above posted it would seem that John A. Macdonald was in fact more concerned about ‘Indian unrest and discontent’ (dare I say open war as in the USA), than he was about native rights. Why not offer a huge tract of some empty and distant land to avoid bloodshed. What use have we got for it?

  12. Anonymous on July 7, 2007 9:38 pm

    I don’t understand the left’s fixation on land claims. They don’t bring Canadians together at all. They create isolated communities that do not solve the inherent health, social and economic issues facing aboriginal communities.

  13. Anonymous on July 12, 2007 7:48 am

    land claims is what the government calls it.
    the left is not fixated by it. just some people of the “left” know a little more about the reality of white-indian relations than nothing.

    some firsts nations are, though, fixated on stopping the deceitful, double-dealing government from CONTINUING to steal, lie, cheat, contradict itself, intimidate, threaten, did i mention lie?

    if you don’t know what i’m referring to, read a book about it!

    most people don’t know anything about it at all, so they don’t care.

    go down to musqueam and ask, if you want to know something about it.

    i am always amazed by the pride people take in their ignorance of the issue:

    “i don’t know what the big deal is….”
    “i’m just as native as the natives…”
    “let’s all just be fair and equal about everything…”
    “why don’t they just get over it….”

    do you know how foolish your comments must look to anyone who is not completely ignorant about the issue? why do you all have the audacity to publicly declare you uninformed intolerance (not that you know enough to even understand why it is intolerant).

    oh yeah, and let me reiterate: the government is being FORCED by the courts to negotiate BECAUSE THE GOVERNMENT LIED AND CHEATED and got caught by the courts. on THAT count they are guilty indeed.

  14. Anonymous on July 12, 2007 8:11 pm

    Oh great and mighty master of all knowledge and wisdom on all issues! We the pathetic, uninformed and intolerant bow down before your greatness. Please enlighten us as to how to fix this world so that it may be better beholden unto your might!

    But seriously. Are you for real? Think someone’s ignorant? Think someone’s wrong? PROVE it. ARGUE your case.

    Having failed to do either, you appear to be nothing more than a fool. And a self-righteous and arrogant one at that.

  15. tristan on July 31, 2007 6:07 am

    i did write the second to last post (sort of obviously, given the anti-colonial spirit, or as some posters prefer, the “self-righteousess” of it).

    my post did say what is happening vis a vis the golf course:

    “the government is being FORCED by the courts to negotiate BECAUSE THE GOVERNMENT LIED AND CHEATED and got caught by the courts. on THAT count they are guilty indeed.”

    that is what i argue is happening.

    in a previous post on this very stream, i gave background for why i think this is so, in greater detail:

    “It should be noted that the Supreme Court of BC determined that the province purposefully offloaded the golf course to UBC in 2003 in order to undermine treaty negotiations soon to be underway, the framework already being established. The Province was alienating Crown land, one of the very few parcels of crown land on the negotiating table…” etc

    now, there is a whole history that people should know, many people on this stream have said very hurtful things because of (i hope!) their ignorance. look, people are saying very hurtful things. really. and that is unacceptable. i wish that reading some books will stop these people from saying such hurtful things. i wish.

    now, i am a “white” person, and i do not accept it when my “white” peers say hurtful things about non-“whites”, no matter what the case is. and this sentiment in no way comes from self-righteousness; on the contrary, i only began to do so a few years ago when i was forced to recognize that the tyranny of white privilege existed everywhere on this planet (unfortunately) including in my own life, in my own head.

    self-righteousness comes into play precisely when you THINK that you are not racist/sexist etc…, or when you think that we are all equal now, or that we are as equal as we will ever be, or that it does not matter any more, or that it is not “your fault” “anymore” or that it’s all “in the past”.

    THAT is the self-righteous liberal point of view: where you imagine that “it is not my fault”.

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