I am writing to reiterate the call from various residents, the Community Association of Oak Bay, and ReconciliACTION Oak Bay, for a halt on plans to renew the 30-year lease for the Spewhung (Turkey Head) lands and waters until there is full and meaningful engagement with the residents of Oak Bay and a respectful consultation with the Songhees and Esquimalt Nations.
This is a significant opportunity for Oak Bay towards reconciliation. It would be disgraceful, in my view, if council side-stepped the opportunity out of expediency to finalize a second 30-year lease with the Oak Bay Marine Group. Council could extend the current lease with the Oak Bay Marine Group for two years – a common approach when more time is needed to finalize a new arrangement. Two years would signal to the community and the Songhees and Esquimalt Nations that our elected council understands the significance of this site as an environmental, cultural and community treasure. Further, two years would allow a respectful amount of time for dialogue and visioning to occur with all the parties that should be at the table.
Council is currently reviewing the language used on Oak Bay’s historic plaques and monuments to make sure it is respectful to First Nations. This is a small action towards reconciliation and should be taken. However, actions speak even more powerfully than words. Council should stop the current lease renewal process and lead the way to an open and inclusive consultation process. It should put the community first. It should not be hiding behind a “secret deal” with a wealthy private sector interest.
Lesley J. Watson