New Westminster is experiencing renewed growth, and in the coming years it will continue to grow and develop.
Recently, there has been discussion about the possibility of moving city hall downtown, which raises the issue of how to re-purpose the current city hall property.
As a city, technically, we have more students, more portable classrooms and less school lands now than we did five to 10 years ago.
Because the current high-school replacement plans have been seriously hindered by the re-establishment of an active graveyard site, as well as the possibility that an historic Chilcotin First Nations chief "may" be buried on site, it makes sense that any future changes to the current city hall site be considered for school district purposes.
Additionally, I would suggest that those discussions include the federal and provincial governments' share of responsibility in making restitution to the school district. At different points in time, the high school land was occupied by the ministry of defence, and there was also once a hospital on site. Communications on the matter of the New Westminster Secondary School lands have already been established with those partners.
The point of the matter is that New Westminster school children have been wrongfully penalized for the historical actions of past government agreements and decisions.
The loss to the school district of the designated cemetery lands, and the ongoing costs of the required site and soil investigations, is punitive to current and future generations of students.
In any official or unofficial discussions about the future of the city hall lands, I urge all members of council to keep that point in mind.
To adequately meet student needs now and in the future, compensation should be made to the school district for the recently incurred land loss, and the city could and should play a significant role to achieve that objective.
Ideally, city council could pursue a joint partnership with provincial and federal levels of government to issue compensatory lands to the school district and/or a special dispensation that would allow the school district to use the entire NWSS parcel for the construction of a new high school.
There is concern that inaction on this critical issue will surely compound today's difficulties - for the school district, and Massey Theatre, as well as for the children and families of New Westminster's future.
For the benefit of all residents - similar to the city's apology to the Chinese for past wrongs - an initiative to resolve the current "wrong" being done to the school district should be made a priority consideration.
Whatever course of action is determined, incorporating current plans for a monument of record to acknowledge any and all past wrongs done to our historical peoples should remain an important component of the resolution process.
Park-space, whether active or passive, is important to the livability of New Westminster, but so too is the education of our future citizens.
Paul Johansen, New Westminster