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Oak Bay compiles data on First Nations references across the landscape

Historic monuments referencing local First Nations to be reviewed at some point
A stone monument overlooking Loon Bay near the Royal Victoria Yacht Club is among those referencing pre-contact history in Oak Bay. The district gathered data on all its monuments and language in preparation for potential review. (Christine van Reeuwyk/News Staff)

Oak Bay is armed with information when the opportunity arises to review monuments referencing First Nations history in the community.

Late last year, council opted to compile a record of monuments that reference pre-colonial uses of the traditional lands of the Lekwungen people. While yet to be put into district systems, staff collected Geographic Information System locations and wording on each monument in Oak Bay.

“It’s our job to make sure we have all the information available so there’s no extra work required when we go forward,” Mayor Kevin Murdoch said.

The plan is to engage with the Songhees and Esquimalt nations to review wording and appropriateness of all monuments in the district.

It’s a small, but key piece of dealing with reconciliation, Murdoch said, and it’s among several starting points for council.

Last spring members agreed to work with local First Nations to add Lekwungen place names – with guidance from Songhees and Esquimalt members. The goal is to broaden public understanding of the history of the lands now known as Oak Bay.

In February, council agreed in principle to adopt call to action No. 43 from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada summary report. That calls on all levels of government to fully adopt and implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as the framework for reconciliation.

READ ALSO: Oak Bay takes principled approach to reconciliation

With work underway at the provincial level to create a framework for how municipalities should adopt the call to action into their operations, council supported adopting it in principle, for now.

Oak Bay also plans to take a closer look at establishing a task force for truth and reconciliation in the community. Council has tasked staff with crafting terms of reference for such a committee.

All conversations at the council table reference building paths to reconciliation with Songhees and Esquimalt Nations in a manner respectful to First Nations’ resource capacity.

Christine van Reeuwyk

About the Author: Christine van Reeuwyk

Longtime journalist with the Greater Victoria news team.
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