Victoria city council is considering introducing an avenue for property owners to turn words of reconciliation into financial action.
A motion headed to the committee of the whole March 24 proposes that beginning in 2022, a form is mailed to property owners, alongside tax notices, that gives them the opportunity to make a contribution to the Songhees and Esquimalt Nations.
In their motion, Mayor Lisa Helps and Couns. Marianne Alto, Sarah Potts and Jeremy Loveday suggest an amount equivalent to five or 10 per cent of an owner’s property taxes, or a different quantity of their choosing.
The proposal is intended to recognize the Lekwungen lands Victoria residents now live on and benefit from at the expense of local First Nations.
“The nations themselves don’t benefit from the wealth generated on their own lands,” Helps told Black Press Media.
It’s also one answer to the question many Victoria residents started seriously asking themselves when the first 215 unmarked graves were found outside the former Kamloops residential school in May 2021: how can one person contribute to reconciliation?
Helps said money is only one of many steps residents can take, but it is an important one that has arisen from consultations with Indigenous communities in the region.
If passed, the motion would work hand-in-hand with council’s March decision to provide an annual $200,000 reconciliation grant to the Esquimalt and Songhees Nations for the next five years.
In the long-term, a Victoria-based non-profit known as Reciprocity Trusts is working on setting up a south Vancouver Island regional trust that would facilitate a voluntary wealth transfer from property owners and renters to participating First Nations. Once set up, the suggested contribution will be an amount equivalent to 12 per cent of a person or business’ property taxes.
Helps, Alto, Potts and Loveday said when the regional trust is ready, the city’s system could merge with it. Council will vote on the motion Thursday.
Black Press Media has reached out to the Esquimalt and Songhees Nations for comment.
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