Indigenous relations

For thousands of years, the Coast Salish peoples have lived and prospered in the Vancouver area. They had complex systems for trade and commerce in the Salish Sea, Burrard Inlet and the Fraser River long before settlers arrived and recognized this area as an ideal trading region.

Today, Indigenous communities still live on these lands, maintaining their spiritual, cultural, and economic connection to the area where they have existed for generations. These communities have a sacred obligation, or snəwayəɬ, to care for the lands and waters of their territories. Because of our shared interest in protecting these natural spaces, we have worked together with local Indigenous communities to help build and maintain the healthy environment of their territories. As a result, we and local Indigenous communities have been able to undertake mutually beneficial projects within our navigational jurisdiction, such as the New Brighton Park Shoreline Habitat Restoration Project, to support the health of the lands and waters we share.

Did you know?

The land where Canada Place sits is called p̓q̓al̕s, which means “white rock” in Musqueam’s and Tsleil-Waututh’s hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ language, and in the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh language. The name refers to the white rocks once found around the foot of Granville Street. Many areas within the port authority’s jurisdiction have traditional hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ and Sḵwx̱wú7mesh names, some of which have stories attached to them.

Engaging with Indigenous communities

Engaging with Indigenous communities gives us a chance to make sure the work we’re doing at the port authority is benefiting all Canadians. As we strive to make the Port of Vancouver the world’s most sustainable port, we actively work to ensure healthier environments and thriving communities. Building relationships with Indigenous communities is not only part of our federal mandate—it allows us to learn from their expertise, giving us a more holistic view of port lands and waters. This expertise can assist us in managing projects more efficiently and targeting projects that Indigenous communities also view as a priority.

Under the Canada Marine Act, we have a responsibility to manage the federal lands and waters that make up the Port of Vancouver. To balance this responsibility with consideration for local Indigenous communities and their own traditional stewardship of the same area, we proactively engage with these groups regularly. By developing respectful, long-term working relationships with Indigenous communities, we’re able to factor the contemporary interests and traditional knowledge of these groups into the work we do to advance Canada’s trade objectives.

Some of the ways we do this include:

  • Consulting on behalf of Transport Canada to ensure port operations and development don’t adversely impact asserted or established Aboriginal or Treaty rights
  • Creating meaningful and long-term relationships with Indigenous communities whose traditional territories and treaty lands intersect the lands and waters of the Port of Vancouver. In 2021, we signed two landmark agreements with the Musqueam Indian Band and Tsawwassen First Nation, representing a commitment to working together in a manner based on principles of mutual respect and reconciliation.
  • Dedicating up to one per cent of our net income to initiatives that focus on community enrichment, education and training, and environmental leadership through our community investment program

Ultimately, our Indigenous relations work aims to understand, establish, and collaborate on matters of mutual interest and benefit as it pertains to the lands and waters we share.

Guiding principles for consultation

When consulting with local Indigenous communities, we align with guidelines set by the federal government, and engage in a manner that is consistent with the following principles:

  • Provide clear, accessible and transparent information while respecting the privacy of all parties
  • Respect that our perspectives may be based on different world views
  • Seek Indigenous perspectives during the consultation process, be open to understanding the interests and knowledge of Indigenous groups, and strive to incorporate them into our work
  • Build strong working relationships between Indigenous groups and the port authority to allow for meaningful dialogue

Along with these principles, the port authority recognizes the importance of the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and is committed to aligning with the federal Principles Respecting the Government of Canada’s Relationship with Indigenous Peoples within its mandate provided for in the Canada Marine Act.

Investing in Indigenous communities

As part of our vision to make the Port of Vancouver the world’s most sustainable port, we are committed to supporting thriving communities. One of the ways we do this is through our community investment program, through which we dedicate up to 1% of our net income to initiatives that matter to local communities.

In 2020/21, several Indigenous-led organizations and Indigenous groups applied for funding through the program. The following projects and events met the requirements of at least one of the program’s three pillars of community enrichment, education and training, and environmental leadership:

Organization  Project or event 

Urban Native Youth Association

Wellness & Cultural Engagement Manager (WCE)

Vancouver Museum Society

MST Knowledge Repatriation Initiative (xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations)


Building Brighter Futures: Bursary, Scholarship and Award Program

Fraser River Discovery Centre

xʷtatəl̕ləm ʔə k̓ʷ šxʷəlməxʷaʔɬ syəθ ʔiʔ snəw̓eyəɬ ʔi ʔə tə ʔi n̓a stal̕əw̓ (Place of Learning About the Indigenous Heritage and Teachings of the Fraser River)

Fort Langley Jazz & Arts Festival

Indigenous Spotlight Program

Raincoast Conservation Foundation

Salish Sea Emerging Stewards Program

Wish Drop-in Centre Society

Providing one-to-one support for Indigenous women

Musqueam Indian Band

Musqueam National Indigenous People’s Day Celebration

Tsleil-Waututh Nation

2020 Whey-ah-Wichen Canoe Race Festival

Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre

Cultural as Medicine: Holistic Healing & Rebuilding for Indigenous Women in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside

Fraser Region Aboriginal Friendship Centre Association

National Indigenous Peoples Day 2022 Celebration

Squamish First Nation

Day of Healing