The K’omoks First Nation is asking the Town of Comox for consultation prior to any further work or design planning on the potential viewing platform at Mack Laing Nature Park, despite council’s previous indication it had consulted with KFN.
In a letter to council presented at the April 17 regular council meeting, Chief Nicole Rempel said the proposed viewing platform and future improvement to the Mack Laing Nature Park have already been out for public consultation and decided upon without prior consultation with KFN.
Rempel noted KFN has previously written to former Mayor Paul Ives about the importance of the site and the large shell midden surrounding Comox Harbour.
“(It) has been well-known since at least 1907 and speaks to over two millennia of Aboriginal use and occupation here,” she wrote.
“The large shell midden here is of significant cultural importance to KFN. It is the resting place for many KFN ancestors.”
She added the protection of archaeological sites in KFN territory is a moral and spiritual obligation of the KFN people and is the law in British Columbia.
Rempel said an extension on the three-month abeyance with the attorney general’s office might be necessary until meaningful consultation has taken place.
In February, council voted on a three-month abeyance to continue an information gathering process for the Mack Laing trust.
On March 27, council heard a variety of opinions and solicited written public comments about the current state of naturalist Laing’s former home Shakesides during a special workshop.
The meeting served to engage in a discussion of issues and compromises related to the trust modification.
The Town is seeking approval to modify the trust from the current requirement to convert Laing’s former residence Shakesides to a nature house and instead remove the home and construct a viewing platform with the funds held in the trust.
Comox council concluded they will refer comments and any additional ideas of a viewing platform back to staff for redesign, and to engage KFN for ideas to the design team.
During the abeyance, Comox Mayor Russ Arnott noted multiple times he had consulted with Rempel and that she is aware of the issues surrounding Shakesides.
When asked about the letter at the April 17 meeting, Arnott said he addressed Rempel’s concerns in a return letter.
“The issue of the viewing platform has been underway for a number of years now with the current council voting to continue with the court proceedings to modify the trust to allow the platform, albeit with some modifications,” read the letter.
He said it has been the desire of the previous council and the current council to ensure the sensitivity of the area is acknowledged and protected to ensure the least amount of disruption to the lands as possible.
Arnott added in the letter, should work proceed, the Town would have an archaeologist from Baseline Archeology monitoring the site. He noted when the new design is ready, he could make a presentation to Rempel and council for feedback and input on the design.