Shawn with Mary Point at Musqueam Site.The ongoing legacy of the unconstitutional seizure of British Columbia from its indigenous peoples can be found everywhere around us today.

As we document at length in “The True Story of Canada’s ‘War’ of Extermination on the Pacific,” British colonists accomplished the de facto part of this seizure in 1862. This was done through the deliberate dissemination of smallpox by way of depopulation, followed by the imposition of a para-military occupation to end political control by the surviving remnants of the native regimes.

Since the indigenous peoples did not lose their sovereign rights through any constitutional means, they still retain them. This includes the right to allocate resources and control land use. However, the successors to the illegal seizure by the colonial governments, the government of Canada, the Province of B.C. and municipalities like the City of Vancouver, now claim the ultimate right to sovereign control.

Today I visited the Musqueam camp at the Marpole Midden on SW Marine Drive near the Arthur Laing Bridge in Vancouver. Indigenous people have occupied this strategic site at the mouth of the Fraser River for at least 4000 years. It has been long recognized as a Canadian Heritage site containing a priceless cultural record along with some undisturbed intact burials of the Musqueam people.

Musqueam TrailerThe Musqueam have never given up their sovereign right to control use of the site, a right that pre-exists any Canadian institutions, nor have they given up the additional aboriginal right supposedly guaranteed by the Canadian constitution.

The non-indigenous owners in possession of competing rights granted through the colonial land system now have the site under development. They have secured approval from the province of B.C. and the City of Vancouver.

On March 5, 2012, the Musqueam community held an emergency meeting and passed a motion to demand that the developers cease work until a better solution can be found protecting the site for the future benefit of all Canadians.

To publicize their desire for a better solution and to prevent further damage to the Midden and the graves of their ancestors, the Musqueam community and their supporters have maintained a 24-hour vigil for 81 days now, and counting.

I was honoured today to meet Mary Point. She has served her community by her continuous presence here. Drummer Alec Guerin joined us for the picture above.

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