Vancouver, September 8: The day after a ceremonial ground-breaking at Senakw, a Squamish Nation development at the south end of the Burrard Bridge that will be the most dense community in Canada, excavators could be seen prepping the site for major construction.
When complete, Senakw will include rental homes for more than 9,000 people spread across 11 towers – including one that will be 58 storeys tall.
“It’s upset me a great deal,” said Jeremy Braude, who insists he is mostly in support of the project – but not an access road that will pave over a 300-metre stretch along the inside edge of Vanier Park. “It’s all about compromise and making it real for everybody and not just this one-sided approach to design and construction.”
“The last of our families were forcibly removed from the area on a barge,” said Squamish councillor Wilson Williams. “Whether it was the same day or the next day, they lit the village on fire.”
Prior to European contact, the Squamish had a thriving fishing village at the site of what is now Vanier Park and Kits Point.
Later, Canada would restrict Squamish territory in the area to 80 acres designated as a reserve, but over the years parcels of that land were expropriated by the city.
Finally, in 1913, settlers forced out the last of the Indigenous residents and destroyed their homes.
The site is now home to Vanier Park and a residential neighbourhood comprised of mostly multi-million dollar single family houses.
The Squamish regained control of about 11-acres of undeveloped land under and around the south end of the Burrard Bridge after settling a court case in the early 2000s.
The park is federal land which the City of Vancouver leases, and it was the feds who gave the green light for the new access road.
The city signed an agreement with the First Nation to provide services including sewer, water and police.
Aside from the road, the rest of the development is on reserve land and that means the Squamish Nation has no obligation to adhere to city zoning bylaws or consult with the surrounding community.
Still, in time they hope to build bridges with their neighbours.
“I think it’s a bit of a shell shock for a lot of people but at the same time we’re coming in in a good way,” said Wilson.
Braude is organizing opposition to the road and has a rally planned in the park for Saturday, September 17.