British Columbia

Musqueam approve land and cash deal worth up to $250M

It's a historic day for the Musqueam First Nation, Chief Ernie Campbell said the morning after Monday night's 98 per cent vote by band members in favour of a deal with the province that resolves the future of the UBC golf course and the River Rock Casino.

It's a historic day for the Musqueam First Nation, Chief Ernie Campbell said the morning after Monday night's 98 per cent vote by band members in favour of a deal with the province that resolves the future of the UBC golf course and the River Rock Casino.

Campbell estimated the reconciliation, settlement and benefits agreement is worth more than $230 million in land value, plus $20 million in cash for the 1,200 band members.

He said the ratification vote showed band members overwhelmingly support the package. 

"That's the most people I've ever seen at a community gathering, ever. I don't know, there was at least two or three hundred people there," Campbell told CBC reporter Steve Lus on Tuesday morning.

The agreement gives the band more than $20 million in cash and title to the seven hectares of land on which the River Rock Casino in Richmond was built.

It also gives the Musqueam the 59-hectare University Golf Club lands, and more than 20 hectares of land in Pacific Spirit Park.

Deal 'the right thing to do': minister

Aboriginal Relations Minister Mike de Jong said the agreement will cost B.C. taxpayers $70 million directly — $20 million for the cash settlement, $30 million to buy back the golf course from the University of British Columbia, and $20 million to pay for the casino site in Richmond. But he said the future land value of the package will be worth much more for the band.

"For the Musqueam, the ability to develop some housing alternative is very important, and the ability to develop an economic capacity that most other communities take for grants is also important, and we think it is the right thing to do," said de Jong.

The agreement will be ratified in the legislature Tuesday afternoon, but it does not affect the ongoing treaty negotiations with the Musqueam, he said.

The agreement requires the band to keep a golf course in place until 2083, but some of the land to the west of the golf course will be targeted for residential development and some will become a public park. The deal also transfers the existing lease for the River Rock Casino to the band.

The deal was struck after the B.C. Court of Appeal ruled in 2005 that the province failed to adequately consult with the Musqueam when the government approved the 2003 sale of the University Golf Club course's land to UBC, and relocated the River Rock Casino to Bridgeport.

The deal also settles the Musqueam litigation against the province to recover costs for the cleanup of contamination on the Celtic Shipyard lands in south Vancouver now owned by the band.