As news spread of the District of North Saanich’s payment of more than $600,000 to fix drainage issues on the Sandown property, a former chief of a nearby First Nation has concerns of his own.
Vern Jacks, former elected Chief of the Tseycum First Nation, says he feels his community was never properly consulted on the District’s plans for Sandown — which include turning 12 acres of the former horse racing track into commercial space and another 83 acres into agricultural land owned by North Saanich itself.
“I feel the mayor has been ignoring these things,” Jacks said in an interview.
He said he has tried to speak with council at its public meetings, but the scant amount of time allocated to speakers is not sufficient to “teach council about native history here.”
“There hasn’t been adequate consultation and accommodation of the Tseycum,” Jacks said. “I know that we’re not going to be getting the land back but no one — not the town and not the developer — have moved to accommodate the Tseycum.”
Jacks said he recalls using the land as a child, traveling with his family to fetch water from the creek that was fed by a pair of ponds or lakes where the Sandown property is today.
That area, like all of the Saanich Peninsula, was used by local First Nations throughout history. It’s that history, Jacks said, that seems to have been forgotten — or ignored by North Saanich.
District of North Saanich Mayor Alice Finall says the municipality has an obligation to inform its neighbours about significant projects like Sandown. She said since the property came up for discussion in 2010, North Saanich has communicated with the Town of Sidney and the Tseycum and Pauquachin First Nations.
“Notices started going out and went to our neighbouring First Nations in around 2011,” she said, noting that the District did not receive any feedback from them at that time — and discussions over the use of the Sandown property have been going on ever since.
The District contracted CR FAIR to run a series of public meetings, seeking community input on what the District should do with the 83 acres of agricultural land they negotiated from the owners, the Randall family. Finall added North Saanich has also held “community to community” meetings with the council and administration of the Tseycum First Nation in recent months and had there been any concerns, they would have come up then.
Jacks said his community needs to know what’s going to happen on the Sandown land and he plans to keep on going to council and asking questions about whats to come.
“It is going to affect us,” he said. “We need to know.”
The News Review has reached out to the current Chief of the Tseycum First Nation for comment.