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 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
- 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, as well as following our own principles. These principles are:
- We acknowledge the treaty lands and asserted traditional territories intersecting the lands and waters we manage
- We recognize that Indigenous consultation is different and separate from public engagement
- We enter all consultation processes in good faith
- When the duty to consult arises, we consult before decisions are made
- When possible, our consultation is coordinated with other agencies
- We strive for one point of contact
- Our consultation processes seek to be clear, open and honest
- Our consultation procedures are forward-looking