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.
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
- Working with Indigenous entrepreneurs and businesses through our Indigenous Business Directory
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|
|Indspire||Building Brighter Futures: Bursary, Scholarship and Award Program|
|SeaChange Marine Conservation Society||Salish Sea Nearshore Habitat Recovery Project – Indian Arm Piling Removals|
|Full Circle First Nations’ Performance Society||Talking Stick Festival|
|Mothers Matter Centre||Urban Indigenous HIPPY Program in East Vancouver|
|Tsleil-Waututh Nation||Burrard Inlet and Indian Arm Winter Waterbird Survey|
|Fort Langley Jazz & Arts Festival||Indigenous-Jazz Fusion Concert|
|Bloom Group||Indigenous Peer Support Program|
|Delta School District||The Giving Tree Project|
|Fraser River Discovery Centre Society||Visioning Process with the Musqueam Community for the Place of Learning|
|Kwikwetlem First Nation||Kwikwetlem Freshwater Ecosystem Monitoring and Stewardship Initiative|