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Metro sues over parkland

Metro Vancouver isn’t giving up part of Pacific Spirit Regional Park without a legal fight.

The regional district will challenge the constitutionality of the province’s recent move to expropriate 22.3 hectares of the Point Grey park and turn it over to the Musqueam Indian Band to settle a land dispute.

“The provincial decision to expropriate these lands to settle aboriginal claims has potential ramifications far beyond Pacific Spirit Regional Park,” said Metro board chair Lois Jackson.

Area mayors fear it amounts to a precedent that may allow the province to transfer other land from public control to First Nations, including other parks, sewage treatment plants or watershed lands across the region.

Jackson said the province is reneging on past promises it would not use municipal and regional park land to settle native claims.

Metro will argue the settlement of aboriginal claims to rights and title is an exclusive area of federal jurisdiction, making the province’s expropriation unconstitutional.

Lawyer Sandra Carter said the legislation is “extraordinary” and may be the first time the province has expropriated local government land without compensation.

Aboriginal reconciliation minister Mike de Jong previously defended the deal as one that will keep the most heavily used parts of the park open to the public.

He also pointed out that when Pacific Spirit park was created in 1989 the regional district agreed as a condition of getting the land for $1 that the transfer was without prejudice to the future resolution of Musqueam claims. It was therefore not unexpected the land might eventually go to the Musqueam without compensation.

The two pieces of land now being pulled out of the park have an estimated value of nearly $200 million.

The deal with the Musqueam is not a comprehensive treaty that would settle all claims by the band, but rather is one in a growing number of deals outside the treaty process. De Jong did not rule out the possibility more park land might be turned over to the Musqueam to conclude an eventual treaty.

jnagel@surreyleader.com

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