EDITORIAL: City of White Rock, Semiahmoo First Nation need to resolve differences

A lack of communication a result of growing acrimony between the two governments.

It would be guesswork for most of us to determine what incident or development sparked the all-too-obvious and seemingly unabating acrimony in recent years between leaders of the City of White Rock and Semiahmoo First Nation.

Regardless – it’s high time for a resolution.

We heard this animosity grow last summer when waterfront helicopter tours that ruffled city feathers originated in Semiahmoo Park; we heard it clearly, as autumn neared, when the city threatened to pull the plug on the First Nation’s water supply.

And we heard it all too loudly last week when a First Nation tsunami drill went awry.

This latest episode – in which a loud siren and announcement to evacuate failed to inform listeners it was only a test –  would have been closer to laughable, had it not been met three hours later with a patronizing statement issued by the city, criticizing “the lack of communication provided by Semiahmoo First Nations (sic).”

“We have communicated our concerns and re-emphasized the need for clearer communication with the City and the public in the future,” concluded a city news release emailed to newspapers, TV and radio stations.

In fact, the First Nation had days earlier – and more than once – communicated to city staff and to other government bodies its intentions to hold a tsunami drill on the Thursday morning at 11, but the early warnings were all but ignored.

According to Semiahmoo councillor Joanne Charles: “Unfortunately, they did not heed our request to have that put on social media, until after the siren went off.”

Clearly, the message from each side is focused on the other’s shortcomings – not the most direct path to conflict resolution.

By now, it should be evident to all involved that advance notification of a siren and evacuation announcement should have been shared, but that it in itself is not enough; even if, by chance, every individual on the Peninsula received the warning, many of us have short attention spans and forget.

However, no harm no foul. While there was potential for panic, we’ve heard of no lasting effects from the tsunami-warning misfire itself.

The ramifications of the resulting exchange, however, may remain a little longer.

It’s not guesswork to say there will be no meaningful improvement for residents of the city and the First Nation until there is a willingness on both sides to find common ground and return to their once-healthy – even though imperfect – former relationship.