In September, White Rock Mayor Wayne Baldwin was roundly criticized for not notifying the Semiahmoo First Nation of the city’s planned upgrades to Memorial Park.
Chief Harley Chappell – who said he learned of civic plans for the unceded land in an online Peace Arch News article the night before a planned groundbreaking ceremony – called the move “disrespectful to us and our ancestors in every way.” Invited attendees were instead treated to the mayor lecturing the chief that his reaction “was not making our relations any better,” and the project sits in limbo to this day.
The term ‘disrespectful,’ however, seems to have stuck with Baldwin, who Monday responded in open council to a visit last week by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to federal byelection candidate Gordon Hogg’s home turf.
“I’ve been asked by a number of people where was I when the prime minister was here, and where was council. The fact of the matter was we were not told about the event, the visit. And this matter was exacerbated by the fact that the group came into city hall to get warm, before they proceeded to Laura’s (Coffee Shop).
“So I must say publicly that I consider the lack of notification to the city council to visit the sitting prime minister to be extremely disappointing, disrespectful and a total breach of protocol. The fact that Semiahmoo First Nations Chief Chappell, who lives in Chilliwack, was invited in sufficient time to make it here would indicate that time was not really a factor. And I will be writing a letter to local Liberal riding and the prime minister’s office; when a sitting prime minister visits a city, it is only reasonable to expect that the welcome to the city would come from the mayor and council, not from the former mayor and nearby First Nations chief.”
Baldwin certainly has a point. Irrespective that Trudeau was no doubt here as Liberal party leader to raise awareness of his candidate’s campaign, he is indeed the country’s prime minister and the city should have been formally notified. That the visit was announced publicly the evening before – and that at least three of Baldwin’s councillors were spotted among the crowd of more than 1,000 – doesn’t excuse the oversight.
But words can be powerful. In this case, we suggest you study Baldwin’s word choices, as they paint a gloomy picture of the potential of future relations between the city and a “former mayor,” a “nearby First Nations chief,” a riding association, the government of Canada and our prime minister.
While Trudeau’s visit was all about the Dec. 11 federal byelection, no doubt the next civic election – scheduled for Oct. 20, 2018 – is on some people’s minds, too.