The decision to allow campers to stay at Juniper Beach while a First Nations gathering goes on around them this weekend will help soothe the furor that erupted earlier this week, when campers were first told they had to leave.
It’s the proper response, on the part of government, which owes a duty to all citizens. Forcing campers to leave in favour of an aboriginal cultural celebration would have sent a troubling message, and could have set the stage for more of these kinds of disputes down the road.
Many of the campers at the provincial park lined up earlier this week to tell The Daily News they were not at all happy with being told they could not stay. They had paid their fees and were intent on a two-week vacation, in a beautiful park at a great time of year.
Environment Minister Terry Lake conceded his ministry’s initial response was less than ideal but in the end, the situation was “fluid,” and operational plans were being formed quickly, amidst changing information.
When some in the campground suggested they would refuse to leave, it became apparent any plan that contemplated eviction was doomed to end badly.
“We were caught a little flatfooted,” Lake said, noting the Bonaparte Indian Band organizer provided insufficient notice of the event to B.C. Parks staff.
In the end, however — although perhaps not as cleanly as all would have liked — the government did what governments must do. It decided on a course designed to balance competing interests as best as possible. It’s the most we can expect a government to do.
Forcing campers to leave the campground would have been wrong. Denying the Bonaparte Band the ability to host their event at the site would have been wrong as well. In situations like this, compromise is a wonderful word.
Time will tell if those at the centre of the dispute — and that means campers and First Nations alike — accept the spirit of the intended compromise. Let’s hope they do, and show each other the respect they all deserve.
There is nothing to be gained and much to be lost in if conflict erupts over who has more or less right to use this campground. We’ve seen enough violence and anger over the years between First Nations and others over land. No one wants Juniper Beach to join Canada’s sad list of infamous cultural battlegrounds, including Gustafson Lake and Oka.
We Say editorials represent the viewpoint of The Daily News and are written by publisher Tim Shoults, city editor Tracy Gilchrist, or associate news editors Dan Spark and Mark Rogers.