British Columbia

Victoria council committee supports voluntary Indigenous reconciliation fund

A majority of city council committee members voted in favour on Thursday of supporting the fund, which will ask homeowners to voluntarily add between five and 10 per cent extra to their annual property tax bill when tax notices are issued in June.

The fund will be generated by voluntary increases to homeowner's property tax payments

Mayor Lisa Helps is pictured in front of Victoria's city hall in August 2020. Her plan is to set up a fund where property owners can voluntarily contribute a percentage on top of their tax bill to local First Nations. (CHEK News)

Victoria has moved a step closer to introducing a voluntary reconciliation fund that will give homeowners the option of contributing financially to local Indigenous nations later this year.

A majority of city council committee members voted in favour on Thursday of supporting the fund, which will ask homeowners to voluntarily add between five and 10 per cent extra to their annual property tax bill when tax notices are issued in June.

The proposal goes to a final council vote on April 7.

Mayor Lisa Helps says the plan is for the city to collect the money and provide it to the Victoria-area Songhees and Esquimalt Nations, along with a $200,000 reconciliation grant council has previously approved.

The mayor says many non-Indigenous people in Victoria have expressed wishes to do more for reconciliation and the council considers a voluntary financial contribution as a meaningful reconciliation commitment.

Council member Stephen Andrew spoke out against the fund at the committee meeting, saying people are free to make contributions to local Indigenous nations on their own and don't need to look to a city program.

"I support reconciliation efforts,'' said Andrew, who has announced his candidacy for mayor in this fall's municipal election. "However, this motion is yet another foray by this council into what is plainly provincial and federal jurisdiction. To me, this is straight virtue signalling.''

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