Jul 9/98: Delgamuukw & Tsawout mega-development



Victoria Times-Colonist
July 9, 1998, p. A3
Susan Chung

[S.I.S.I.S. note: The following mainstream news article may contain biased or distorted information and may be missing pertinent facts and/or context. It is provided for reference only.]

The Tsawout band is in preliminary talks with O & Y Enterprises, headed by a member of the Reichmann family, to build an $8-million development on the band's Saanich Peninsula reserve. Chief Al Claxton met with the group Wednesday to discuss a possible first phase, 60,000-square-foot commercial retail development. O & Y Enterprises is a division of O & Y Properties Inc. headed by Philip Reichmann in Toronto. The publicly traded company is a remnant of Olympia and York, one of the most powerful forces in real estate before it collapsed in the early 1990s. The company, which manages more than $80 million square feet of office space, has also suggested building on the reserve:

If everything goes well, "in a couple of years, we'll have a grand opening," said John McDiarmid of Montrose Financial Group, which is handling the money end of the deal. Band members now have to discuss what developments they'll accept. "I'm happy for the most part," said Claxton after the meeting, the second one since October. The band has been trying to develop its land for nearly two years to solve chronically high unemployment among its people. But a number of key issues need to be resolved before any ground is broken. "At present there are a lot of misconceptions and a certain reluctance to explore opportunities when the business community considers doing business with First Nations people," says a five-page outline the group gave to the band. "Some of these fears are founded in bad experiences...There are also many examples of successes to draw upon as well."

Any companies involved in the project will want to know who has control of the land in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling on the Delgamuukw case in December and last week's Federal Court ruling on Clydesdale Estates. The Delgamuukw case involves 58,000 square kilometres of land in the BC Interior claimed by the Gitxsan and Wet'suwet'en bands and dramatically strengthened the legal claims to land for which no treaties were signed. The Clydesdale Estate case questioned who has control of native land on the nearby Tsartlip reserve - the band council or an individual native who has a certificate of possession for the land from the Department of Indian Affairs.

The Federal Court upheld the department's authority to issue a lease to the individual natives for the land, but it is unclear what effect the ruling affects other developments. Claxton told the developers he did not believe Delgamuukw would affect the project because the band and its members clearly own and control the land. Other issues that need to be discussed include:

- how the existing mobile home park will fit into the new development including how to deal with existing residents who might be displaced;

- environmental impact;

- what kind of security is available for the lender in case the project fails;

- will there be enough water and sewage capacity to handle the development.

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