Dispossession and displacement as active projects are very much about land as property. Property is both the point of these struggles and the medium. Struggles over the meanings and moralities of property have been central. Law, in this sense, must be conceived not simply as an instrument of colonial domination but as a means through which colonialism has itself been produced. In order to understand the historic dynamics of colonialism and its contemporary echoes, it helps if we attend to the geographies of land. The meanings and practices associated with land as property have proved critical, yet are inseparable from its spatialities.–Nick Blomley (Professor of Geography, SFU)
In this edition of The City, we reflect upon the Musqueam’s ongoing struggle to protect their ancestral village site and burial grounds of c̓əsnaʔəm (pronounced cusnaum) from condo development. Friday, August 10th marked 100 days of the Musqueam keeping an around-the-clock vigil and occupation of at the site in the 1300-block of SW Marine Drive, which is under threat of development. Musqueam marked 100 days with a march from Granville and W 70th to c̓əsnaʔəm and a rally with other First Nations from around the province, as well as many non-Musqueam supporters and organizations.
The owners of the site are planning to have Century Group, the developer, build condominiums on the site despite over 4,000-year-old Musqueam ancestral remains have been discovered and c̓əsnaʔəm has been recognized as a National Historic Site since the 1930s. The BC government has continued to okay the site for development based on their archaeological assessment, with the city then issuing the necessary development permit. By keeping an ongoing vigil, the Musqueam have prevented further development and desecration. Musqueam have proposed a land swap to ensure the future protection and recognition of c̓əsnaʔəm. The provincial government has been unwilling to move this proposal forward. The BC Liberal government has suggested that they will expedite payment of cash that is already owed to the band, so the band can then buy back the land from the owners/developer. The irony of buying back your own land is not lost on many. You can follow the struggle for c̓əsnaʔəm on Twitter and Facebook.
ON THE PODCAST | We hear from Musqueam’s Cecilia Point and elder Delbert Guerin, provincial NDP MLAs Jenny Kwan and Scott Fraser (Aboriginal Relations Critic), former COPE City Councillor Ellen Woodsworth, BC Nurses’ Union President Debra MacPherson and Lisa Walker. Additionally, The City speaks with Tristan Markle, co-founder and editor of The Mainlander, about the city’s role and responsibility in the matter, specifically on why a development permit was issued. In the first part of the podcast, host Andy Longhurst reads excerpts from Nick Blomley’s (Professor of Geography, SFU) 2003 book Unsettling the City: Urban Land the Politics of Property.
The town also emerged as a vital economic and political node in a broader colonial network, directing flows of capital and command that opened up resource frontiers in the colonial interiors. All of this, of course, was pivotal to the process of colonial dispossession. But colonial towns also quickly emerged as speculative spaces. Layout was designed so as to facilitate the acquisition and transfer of urban land. Vancouver’s initial expansion, it has been argued, was largely a product of land speculation, rather than expansion in the production of goods and services. Boosterist publications marveled at the leapfrogging of prices, and the fact that areas of “wild land” could become “first-class property” in a matter of months. Vancouver “is a purely business town,” noted one observer, “a land of speculation…above all, in city lots.”
Today, August 10th, marked 100 days of the Musqueam Band protecting their ancestral burial grounds of c̓əsnaʔəm in the Marpole neighbourhood of south Vancouver. They have kept an around-the-clock presence at a site in the 1300-block of Southwest Marine Drive which is intended to be developed into luxury condominiums by Century Group. Over 4,000-year-old intact Musqueam ancestral remains are buried on the site. The Musqueam have called for a land swap to ensure that the ancestral burial grounds of c̓əsnaʔəm are protected.
Below are photos from the march starting from Granville Street and West 70th and ending at c̓əsnaʔəm in the 1300-block of SW Marine Drive. The march ended with a rally and speeches. NDP MLAs Jenny Kwan and Scott Fraser (Aboriginal Relations Critic), former COPE City Councillor Ellen Woodsworth, BC Nurses Union President Debra MacPherson, and Musqueam spokesperson Cecilia Point, among other Musqueam representatives, addressed the crowd. Following the speeches, Musqueam runners left to deliver the petition signed by over 3,000 people to Premier Christy Clark’s West 4th Avenue constituency office.
From the May 29, 2012 rally at Vancouver’s Mountain View Cemetery. The Musqueam Band is making the point that we would not consider developing on the cemetery, yet the development permit for a condo development on sacred Musqueam burial grounds in Marpole has been issued and the threat of continued desecration is ongoing. You can hear more about the situation and the rally on the May 29th podcast.
The May 29th podcast is available here. In the first half of the show I speak with Musqueam spokesperson Cecilia Point at the Mountain View Cemetery rally as they are set to ‘develop’ on Vancouver’s only cemetery. You’ll also hear my conversations with Emiliano Sepulveda about the upcoming Vancouver Night School (May 31) and Myriam Steinberg about In the House Festival and music and art in a living room near you.
In the second half of the show, we hear from Montreal student activist Alejandra Zaga about the how the protests have been playing out on the streets, how the movement is shaping the urban experience, and how we are seeing the creation of new, highly fluid (radical) social spaces.
MUSIC // In Your House, Parlovr (Montreal) // Film III, Jorane (Montreal)
The May 22nd podcast focuses primarily on discussions of economic growth and the role of cities. In the first part of the program, you’ll hear an update on Musqueam’s struggle to protect their burial grounds and coverage on protests in Montreal and Chicago, as well as the Women Transforming Cities launch event (May 24th). In the second part of the show, The City contrasts the neoliberal, pro-growth urban economic paradigm espoused by Harvard’s Edward Glaeser (a belief held by the majority of neoclassical economists) versus Richard Heinberg‘s (Post Carbon Institute; author, The End of Growth) end-of-growth thesis, accounting for the incompatibility of constant economic expansion and our finite planet.
The May 8th podcast is available here. In the podcast, you’ll find coverage of pro-democracy protests in Moscow as Putin begins his third term as president, and dissent is silenced by security forces. Gazans move into new housing, yet much more is needed to address the housing shortage. Also in the program, you’ll hear how the Musqueam continue their struggle to protect sacred lands in Marpole from development and the desecration of their burial grounds. The City brings you recent developments on this ongoing struggle and the recent rally and march. And in the last part of the podcast, The City speaks with Michael McCarthy Flynn about Vancouver’s Living Wage Campaign and the recently released 2012 Living Wage report.
The Musqueam band marched and rallied on Thursday, May 3rd to protest the continued development on ancient burial grounds in Marpole (1338 SW Marine Drive), where Musqueam ancestors are buried. Recently, intact 4,000-year old infant remains were discovered on the site, which prompted the band to renew efforts to stop development on the site and further desecration. The developer has indicated that construction on the site will continue, despite the Musqueam’s call for work to cease.
Musqueam Chief Ernie Campbell has indicated that the band would like to see a land swap with the developer Century Group in order to protect the burial ground site known as c̓əsnaʔəm. Ultimately the province must push this discussion forward, even though the City of Vancouver has facilitated discussions between the band and developer. Century Group plans to redevelop the site into HQ Living condominiums.
At Thursday’s rally, Chief Campbell addressed the crowd, along with Chief Kim Baird of the Tsawwassen First Nation, and representatives from other bands. The Union of BC Indian Chiefs and the Assembly of First Nations have expressed their support for the Musqueam’s struggle to protect their burial grounds.
Chief Ernie Campbell told the media that they will occupy the site as long as necessary to protect their ancestors and prevent development.
Full coverage and more updates on the Tuesday, May 8th edition of The City.