Affordable housing and mental illness a priority for the development of səmiq̓wəʔelə

A new phase in the multi-year planning process for səmiq̓wəʔelə (formerly the Riverview Lands) kicked off Tuesday night with a presentation from B.C. Housing and Kwikwetlem First Nation.

April showers, bring May flowers!

It’s Morgan here. I hope you’ve had the chance to enjoy the week of sun but we’re not nicknamed Rain City for nothing. Best to grab your umbrella because next week the rain is expected to be back in full force!

Find out more about Tri-Cities events taking place this spring! Most are virtual – so you can attend rain or shine! And continue reading to find out what’s happening to səmiq̓wəʔelə land, as well as the newest COVID-19 restrictions.

Looking for ideas: A new phase in the multi-year planning process for səmiq̓wəʔelə (formerly the Riverview Lands) kicked off Tuesday night with a presentation from B.C. Housing and Kwikwetlem First Nation.

While it was deemed too early for specifics, BC Housing director of land development Lauren English emphasized five priorities for the 244-acre site:

  1. Reconciliation efforts 
  2. Mental health services 
  3. Historical preservation
  4. Ecological protection
  5. Affordable housing 

People first: səmiq̓wəʔelə is currently home to a mental health and substance abuse rehabilitation facility for youth aged 12-17. A second healing centre is expected to open this summer. The new plan needs to respect the environment and benefit people, said Kwikwetlem First Nation Chief Ed Hall.

Given the land’s importance in Kwikwetlem history, Hall said the site was crucial in “healing from the past.”

  • David Eby, Attorney General and Minister Responsible for Housing: “While the site is being used to provide healing services for people, it has the potential to touch many more lives through delivery of more mental health services, recognition and preservation of natural features, opening safe and affordable housing and developing a complete community.”

A few complications: Specifics for the master planning are still vague. The majority of the buildings on-site are between 60 and 100 years old, English noted, explaining that a large portion of the infrastructure serving the site is failing or critical.

“The status quo is no longer an option,” English said.

The schedule: Tuesday’s presentation earmarked the next year for an engagement process followed by concept options aided by a public advisory group and information sessions. The plan is tentatively slated to be refined over three to four years.The new process comes more than seven years after the provincial government embarked on a “visioning process” for the land that drew input from 1,500 people.

Land transfers to Kwikwetlem First Nation are also expected to be worked out in the future, English said.

The lands were officially renamed səmiq̓wəʔelə – meaning the place of the great blue heron – in March.

New restrictions: On Monday the province announced restaurants will be prohibited from offering indoor dining until April 19th. Additional restrictions have also been placed banning indoor religious gatherings and low intensity indoor fitness classes. 

Reducing transmission: COVID-19 transmission is most likely to occur indoors. There is hope that closing indoor dining will reduce the risk of transmission, lower death rates, and reduce the risk of COVID-19 variant cases. In the Tri-Cities, restaurants have acted as a hub for COVID-19 transmission. Earlier this year, we saw a super spreader event lead to 300 COVID-19 cases at a pub trivia night in Port Moody. 

Continuous support: Restaurant owners and staff were given little time to prepare for these restrictions as they were informed of the limitations the day of. Here are a few ways you can continue to support your favourite local restaurants and still follow COVID-19 precautions:

  • Order delivery or take-out
  • Visit a restaurant that offers outdoor seating
  • Continue to tip service workers
  • Show your support by leaving a review online

Cyclists are being asked to be mindful of local wildlife as 4,000 juvenile salmon were recently killed in Maple Creek – a section of the Coquitlam River watershed. 

The big picture: Mountain cyclists have been cutting down branches in order to provide areas to jump over water. Added debris blocked the off-channel pond that stems from Maple Creek. The water levels have been too low to provide an adequate habitat for the salmon hatchlings to survive.    

  • Witness suspicious activity? Report any acts of vandalism to the Coquitlam Parks Customer Service at 604-927-6300

Protecting our wildlife: Environmental stewards from local organizations have been on location in Maple Creek to educate people on protecting the salmon population. Fences have also been placed in surrounding areas to prevent further vandalization of Maple Creek.

  • The penalty: Vandals can face a $250 city fine as well as any fees imposed by Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Happening Around Town

  • Hard reboot: Boot camps kick off in Port Moody
  • Come for the band, stay for the bandwidth: Festival du Bois heads online
  • Checkmate, kids: Virtual chess at the library
  • Race virtually, in any direction, to benefit youth programs

In Other News

  • The Fraser Health Online booking system will be going offline daily from 7 AM to 7 PM
  • A Coquitlam woman is speaking out online after she received an ICBC rebate cheque for a seldom CAD$1 
  • Get smart: Dr. Bonnie Henry and Greta Thunberg amongst those scheduled to receive honorary degrees from UBC
  • The transit solution: More buses will be heading to popular Tri-Cities beaches amid concerns around parking 

One More Thing

Port Coquitlam is currently looking for a local furry friend to uphold the title of the city’s newest pet ambassador! From now until May 9th, Port Coquitlam residents can nominate their pet. Voting will take place May 11th to June 18th at CAD$1-per-vote. The winner will be named by the mayor himself and all proceeds will go toward supporting the PoCo Heritage Museum and Archives. The contest isn’t just limited to dogs and cats – any domestic animal with 2, 3, or 4 legs will be considered for the pet ambassador title! 

Correction: A previous version of the story stated the the The Fraser Health Online booking system would be going offline daily from 7 PM to 7 AM, when in fact it is going offline from 7 AM to 7 PM.

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