Victoria Council Approves First Nations Reconciliation Grant

Council’s vote was 6 to 2. Mayor Lisa Helps put forward the idea, saying the intention was to share the city’s wealth with the First Nations on whose land Victoria sits.

Councilors in Victoria approved a $200,000 allocation in the 2022 budget to create a grant for the Songhees and Esquimalt Nations, demonstrating the city’s commitment to reconciliation.

The grant will come from the city’s 2021 surplus and would be included in the five-year financial plan as a pilot project, to come from new revenue assessed in subsequent years.

Mayor Lisa Helps, who came up with the idea, said the intention was to share the city’s wealth with the nations on which Victoria sits.

In a 6-2 vote, councilors on Monday approved a grant that was significantly changed from the original proposal put forward by Helps, which called for a grant of 15% of new taxable revenue – the amount of new tax revenue. that a local government receives within a year from the new development. The grant would increase on a cumulative basis each year because when a new development is built in the city, it first generates revenue in the form of new assessed revenue and then each year thereafter in the form of property tax.

“The idea behind the Songhees and Esquimalt Nations Reconciliation Grant is that as the city grows, the nations on whose lands the city was built should also benefit from that growth,” Helps wrote in a recent post. of blogging.

She modified the proposal in response to public comments. Of nearly 50 items submitted to the public for comment, the Reconciliation Grant received one of the lowest support rankings, with 40.2% of respondents saying they strongly agreed with the idea and 52.8% strongly disagree.

Com. Marianne Alto, who chaired the special committee for the entire meeting as acting mayor, said the council had received a letter from the Songhees Nation saying they were pleased the city was considering the grant, as well a letter from the Te’mexw Treaty Association, which represents Scia’new, Malahat, Snaw-naw-AS, Songhees and T’Sou-ke, supporting the initiative.

“I think, for me, this step today is a tangible step supported by nations, seen as a gesture that goes beyond our words and pays the price for something that we value. We value money in our society…so if it’s a value we believe in, then we need to be able to attribute that value as something we can share,” she said.

Com. Charlayne Thornton-Joe pushed back against the idea that the grant might not be within the purview of the council, saying: ‘I think it is justifiable in the fact that I think the work that will be done will benefit the town as a whole. , so not only the nations, but the city.

Com. Stephen Andrew, who with the adviser. Geoff Young opposed the grant, saying the city should focus on day-to-day services for residents, such as waste management, policing and recreation facilities.

“These things matter. This is what we were elected to do, and the City of Victoria has already demonstrated a strong and longstanding commitment to reconciliation,” he said.

Greater Victoria’s Grumpy Taxpayer $ had been pushing for the city to put the proposal to a referendum, calling it an important measure that needs broad public support.

Com. Ben Isitt said a referendum on the subject would be “a very bad idea“.

“It brings the worst elements of all of our communities out of the carpentry and gives them the platforms to articulate objectionable opinions that harm individuals,” he said.

When a future council, to be elected in October, deliberates on financial planning for 2023, it could decide to modify or remove the subsidy from the budget.

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