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LETTER: Fort Langley signage proposal about more than Kwantlen linguistic heritage

Motivation underlying band leadership’s approval of Woodward proposal questioned

Dear Editor,

I have read an article in your newsfeed about Councilor Woodward proposing to install signage that recognizes Kwantlen linguistic heritage in Fort Langley [Kwantlen street signs proposed, Langley Advance Times, June 14].

I also read that he has support from the Kwantlen Nation Chief and Council, and other council members of Langley Township.

In October 2015 a delegation of Kwantlen People, including the Chief and Council, presented a concept to the council at that time to integrate Kwantlen art on to power boxes. This was first proposed by Councilor Arnason, and was struck down by Eric Woodward and Gareth Abreo who represented the Fort Langley Business Improvement Association at that time.

The criteria behind their objection to that proposal were that they thought that the artwork would be a distraction from the aesthetic flow of the (neo-colonial) architectural plan of the village.

I had discussions shortly afterwards with Councilor Richter and the education coordinator of the Kwantlen Nation to bring forth another proposal to mayor and council to integrate and reinstate proper hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ place names and signage throughout Langley Township.

​​That was 2015, and the idea did not see the light of day, because it did not have support from many stakeholders, including the Fort BIA, and the new councilor who is now flaunting this idea to the public like it is his own.

The other problems I see inherent in this proposal are that there is a leadership and policy challenge taking place within the Kwantlen First Nation, which should place some constraints on what the present Chief and Council consenting from within the Kwantlen populace.

In fact, this latest development shows how incredulous they can be in matters regarding consent.

I can iterate that the support of the present Chief and Council represents a minority of the Kwantlen Nation, and that anything being presented in the public realm, including pageantry, parades, and glorified event management initiatives, including this proposal currently being brought before council, have more to do with vanity than they have to do with substantial governmental duties of their respected offices.

I am ashamed that the leaders in my community lack critical awareness and scrutiny of overtures by Councilor Woodward, whose motivations are dubious.

I would like your readership to know that any support that is coming from the current administration of the Kwantlen First Nation is not consensus-based, and on this matter they seem to be acting alone, without support from a vast majority of Kwantlen band members.

The authentic and core sentiment of the community have not been asked how they feel about the matter, and they are likely less informed of recent events and actions that showed how callous the councilor has been in the past to Kwantlen band members, and who is now presenting this idea, which is not his idea, before the public.

I am appalled at Councilors Richter and Woodward, and even more appalled at the uncritical and shameful opportunism displayed by the waning leadership table of the Kwantlen Nation. I cannot fathom why pomp and pageantry are prioritized ahead of the critical and underlying issues that their governmental roles and standards are supposed to abide by.

Vanity over substance seems to be the way we are accustomed to dealing with how our unelected Chief and Council operate. Place names are one thing, but where is the acknowledgement that the establishment of the colony of British Columbia itself, let alone the entire landmass of the Township of Langley, were done so under dire circumstances and extremely violent conditions placed on Kwantlen people.

Where is the acknowledgement that this council member is also a direct financial benefactor of the land that was never ceded, and both the councilor and the Chief and Council of the Kwantlen Nation will both parlay for token overtures, over real and authentic “Nation to Nation” work.

Brandon Gabriel – Kwelexwelsten, Kwantlen First Nation

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