Squamish chief suggests tearing down Vancouver's historic RCMP barracks in spirit of reconciliation
The 100-year-old Fairmont Academy stands as a symbol of oppression and discrimination, says chief
It may be listed in the Vancouver heritage register as a building of primary significance, but some First Nations say Vancouver's former RCMP Fairmont Academy is a symbol of oppression that should be torn down.
The 1912 Tudor-style building was acquired by the Squamish, Musqueam and Tsleil-Waututh Development Corporation and Canada Lands Company (CLC) in 2014.
It's part of the Heather Street Lands, an 8.5-hectare parcel located between 33rd Avenue and 37th Avenue at Heather Street that the City of Vancouver is holding consultations on.
Chief Ian Campbell of the Squamish First Nation says the building should make way for a space that better represents the process of reconciliation.
"The forced imposition of colonialism and the marginalization of Indigenous peoples from our lands largely was inflicted through the Canadian government, through the RCMP," Campbell told Rick Cluff, host of CBC's The Early Edition.
"The Fairmont Building represents some of that old healing that needs to take place."
Campbell said he doesn't want the idea that the building might be torn down to surprise anyone when the latest plans for the site are presented to the public.
MP Don Davies once called for the barracks to be converted into affordable housing. Others said it should be converted into units to house former or retired RCMP members.
First Nations recall the land where the building now sits as a traditional hunting ground with travel routes and trade paths.
They want to see it turned into a profitable development that aligns with and reflects Indigenous values.
'We weren't citizens in our own lands'
Campbell says he's especially concerned about the trauma the Fairmont building could trigger for elders.
"They're the ones that bore the brunt of discrimination in this country prior to the '50s when we weren't citizens in our own lands," he said.
He's open to that idea of replacing the building with a new cultural or community space.
While he would like to see the building gone, he says what ends up in its place is equally as important.
"We really want to put our signature on these developments to showcase our values and our principles and our connections to these lands," he said, adding there has been no opportunity to do so in that traditional territory for more than 150 years.
With files from CBC Radio One's The Early Edition