Vancouver International Airport and the Musqueam Indian Band have inked a 30-year agreement that includes job and educational opportunities plus a revenue-sharing deal valued at more than $200 million.
Wendy John, a Musqueam band councillor, called the signing of the agreement Wednesday a “significant, historic event” for all Canadians.
“This agreement reflects YVR’s acknowledgement that we are the people of this land and we have a part in the growth of the economy and employment,” said John, a member of the negotiating team.
“It responds to what our community has been wanting to have … to be part of the story of YVR in a more meaningful way.”
The airport’s relationship with the Musqueam dates back more than 80 years to when the airport was established in 1931 on the traditional lands of the First Nation band.
The Musqueam was involved in the airport’s 20-year plan and in archeological and noise management efforts.
But the driving force for the agreement came two years ago, said John, when Musqueam Chief Wayne Sparrow saw the airport’s development of the McArthurGlen designer outlet on Sea Island and was determined to negotiate an agreement that would be mutually beneficial to both parties.
“He called (YVR) saying we are ready, but that it has to be done in a meaningful way — not just a few art pieces and not just a couple of jobs,” said John.
Under the agreement’s terms, YVR will commit one per cent of annual revenue each year to the Musqueam.
This year, that percentage translates to $5 million based on 2016 figures. Based on the expectation of revenue growth for the airport, the deal could be worth in excess of $200 million over the 30 years, said Vancouver Airport Authority President and CEO Craig Richmond.
The agreement was a “natural outgrowth of the idea that businesses should try to pursue agreements like this with their First Nations neighbours,” Richmond said after the official signing ceremony at an airport hangar attended by Chief Sparrow, Musqueam elders and council members, airport officials and business partners.
“It’s time,” he said.
The revenue sharing bolsters the agreement’s credibility, said John, but equally important are the job and educational opportunities and the support of Musqueam culture stipulated in the agreement.
The deal includes an education-to-employment path for Musqueam members, including jobs, four apprenticeship positions, and up to 10 scholarships a year, each worth about $10,000.
It ensures a voice for the Musqueam in future development by formalizing protocol for long-term projects and commits both parties to environmental protection and protection of archeological resources.
The agreement also commits to adding more Musqueam art at the airport, which already boasts several significant Musqueam works, including Susan Point’s spindle whorl and the Welcome Figures at the arrivals waiting area.
The agreement still needs to get the approval of Musqueam members following consultation by the end of July.
The agreement is the latest in a series of urban land deals the Musqueam have negotiated in the Lower Mainland based on their land rights, including a $250-million deal for the University of B.C. golf course lands and the River Rock Casino lands and two other parcels of land, as well as a $300-million deal with two other First Nations and a federal development agency for the Jericho military lands and former RCMP headquarters.
The Business Council of British Columbia hailed the agreement as an example of reconciliation that improves the health, education and social outcomes for First Nations groups and strengthens the province’s economy and ability to attract investment.
The agreement caps a growing list of more than 250 agreements between B.C. First Nations and industry, said CEO Greg D’Avignon.