City of Vancouver and Squamish Nation sign Memorandum of Understanding

Squamish Chief Gabby Jacobs and Mayor Gregor Robertson, immediately after signing the document

Dignitaries from the City of Vancouver and the Squamish Nation gathered Monday to witness the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the two governments. The document outlines the framework in which the two bodies can adjudicate on issues of mutual interest, such as tourism, governance and environmental protection.

"It's through these kinds of relationships that the opportunities our people dream of will become a reality," Squamish Chief Gibby Jacobs said.

"This is a very proud day for the City of Vancouver as we strengthen our relationship with the Squamish First Nation," Mayor Gregor Robertson said.

As distinct from Provincial treaty negotiations, the memorandum does not create or fulfill legal obligations. According to the document itself, its purpose instead is to clearly articulate the "intention and desire to establish a cooperative government-to-government relationship."

The Squamish Nation signed a very similar memorandum with the city of North Vancouver in 2008.

"Through these protocols we underline that we share many of the same aspirations," Mayor Robertson said.

Chief Jacobs said that the memorandum will be vital in the nation's ongoing struggle to overcome decades of poverty and create opportunities for its young people.

"In my community, we have 3600 people, which may seem small and is small within the numbers we traditionally had. But 60 percent of that is under 25," he said, "The requirements of our leadership today, on behalf of our children, for those that are yet unborn, is a huge task."

He emphasized that agreements such as this one are vital to move beyond a troubled history. That history must not be forgotten, he said, but neither should present generations be caught up in questions of blame and revenge.

City councillors and members of Squamish Nation

"Can we blame anybody today? Absolutely not. Unless you were born in the 1910 time frame, and I look around... I don't think anybody here was around at that time," he said.

In describing the benefits of the memorandum, he spoke briefly about the success of the aboriginal pavilion during the Olympic games, which he said approximately 350,000 people visited.

One story he related from the pavilion showed vividly how attitudes towards aboriginals in Canada have changed in the forty or fifty years since residential schools taught a generation to be ashamed of their heritage.

"There were these young kids from the east end," Chief Jacobs said, "Chinese, native, the great mix of this area. And they were going back to school on their bus and they were all arguing about who was the most aboriginal."

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