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Native leaders want say on casino

Semiahmoo First Nation councillor Joanne Charles listens to the debate at a Wednesday morning forum on a proposed South Surrey casino.  - Dan Ferguson photo
Semiahmoo First Nation councillor Joanne Charles listens to the debate at a Wednesday morning forum on a proposed South Surrey casino.
— image credit: Dan Ferguson photo

Semiahmoo First Nation councillor Joanne Charles said her people have not been consulted about a proposed casino in South Surrey.

Charles was speaking at a Wednesday morning public forum hosted by residents with concerns about the proposed $100-million casino, hotel and convention centre complex at 10 Avenue and 168 Street

“It’s a stone’s throw away from our traditional territory,” Charles said, complaining the proponents of the casino haven’t approached the Semiahmoo.

Other than a single letter of notification, “we have not heard from them,” Charles said.

She promised the Semiahmoo band will be demanding “full consultation.”

The forum at the ABC restaurant on King George Boulevard was the second casino forum organized by BC NDP Surrey-White Rock candidate Susan Keeping.

Many of the people who attended the first forum on Sunday, Nov. 4, were among the approximately 60 who attended the early morning meeting Wednesday.

And like the first meeting, most of the discussion was dominated by casino opponents such as area resident Don Murray.

“I hate to see government become addicted to casino revenue,” Murray said.

Don Murray

 

Don Murray speaks against a proposed South Surrey casino complex at a Wednesday morning public forum.

Dan Ferguson photo

 

A number of speakers said the proposal should be voted on by residents before final approval is granted.

Terry McNeice, president of the South Surrey Ratepayers Association was one of the referendum supporters.

“This is not a done deal,” McNeice said.

Another speaker, Bill Hatton, said the casino should foot the bill.

“They must have a referendum and it should be paid for by Gateway,” Hatton said.

Gateway Casinos and Entertainment general counsel James Chen, who was present at the forum, said the company was not legally required to fund an opinion poll.

“We’re prepared to comply with the law,” Chen said.

In response to several speakers who predicted crime would rise if the casino goes in, Gateway community liaison Tanya Gabara told the forum an independent study found crime around a casino either stays the same or even drops.

“It does not bring crime to your area,” Gabara said.

Gateway was scheduled to hold its own public forum Wednesday  evening, after PAN’s press deadline.

Another forum organized by casino opponents will be held Wednesday, Nov. 14 at the Pacific Inn, 1160 King George Blvd., starting at 7 p.m.

The mayors of White Rock, Surrey and representatives of the casino and lottery agency have been invited, organizers say.

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