Mayor Wayne Baldwin has fired back at critics of the ‘disinvitation’ of the Semiahmoo First Nation from the inaugural White Rock Buskers Festival – in particular Couns. Helen Fathers and David Chesney.
Both had expressed dismay last week at learning the SFN had been invited to open the festival on May 5, but had been informed two days before that they were no longer invited because it had been decided there would be no formal opening.
Both Fathers and Chesney were quoted in a Peace Arch News article after posting online that they suspected the committee had received a directive to disinvite SFN.
Baldwin denied there was any city directive to exclude SFN and, on Monday, he used his mayor’s report section of the council agenda to launch a counterattack.
“Unfortunately, in the eyes of the Peace Arch News, the event was secondary to the latest conspiracy theory – the ‘great Semiahmoo First Nations invitation retraction conspiracy,’” Baldwin said.
“Even more regrettably, two members of council are attempting to use an honest, well-meaning mistake on a volunteer’s part to launch an investigation into what they are calling ‘meddling from higher up.’
“Ironically, these are the same two councillors who very briefly attended the recognition dinner on March 22 for community policing volunteers and ducked out at the earliest opportunity, before the awards presentation, with their dinners in styrofoam boxes, to attend a non-city event.”
Baldwin went on to say “recent events have shown the necessity of having in place city policies and protocols pertaining to relations with other levels of government, other local governments and First Nations. Accordingly, I will be creating a new committee, the intergovernmental and Indigenous affairs committee.”
Baldwin said he’d asked city staff to prepare terms of reference.
“The committee will also be asked to determine with the assistance and advice of the province, just who our referenced First Nations are,” he said. “White Rock has for years assumed the proximity of Semiahmoo Reserve in Surrey gives us a natural relationship – which it does.”
But Baldwin said that, as a result of the consultation process for the Memorial Park project, “it has come to light that we are subject to claims not only from SFN,” but also from several other First Nations groups, who are consulting on city projects – while noting SFN is also seeking to launch a court challenge to a casino project in Delta.
“This, of course, begs the question: who do you invite to city events without disrespecting the culture and heritage of the others?” he said.
Baldwin criticized Chesney and Fathers for electioneering, noting he’d asked staff to “provide clarifying language on the permissible content of mayors’ and councillors’ reports at council meetings.”
In his councillor’s report, Chesney responded that his statements were not intended to be political.
“I think when all the facts and figures are known over the coming weeks, I think the community will see that it was far from a political statement and will shake their heads in disgust at what transpired behind the scenes.”
“You are so wrong,” countered Baldwin.
At the end of the evening, Fathers submitted a notice of motion – to be considered at the May 28 meeting – to create policy that would invite Semiahmoo First Nation to all “opening ceremonies… that all levels of government would usually be part of.”
In particular, Fathers’ notice of motion referenced the Concerts at the Pier series co-sponsored by the BIA and TD Bank, Canada Day, Sea Festival and the Tour de White Rock.