After a shaky start to a First Nations gathering at Juniper Beach campground last week, a peaceful and respectful event was enjoyed by all, according to organizer Steve Basil and Environment Minister Terry Lake.
"I think it was an example of an understanding of each other's points of view," said Lake who received an update from an assistant deputy minister on Sunday.
Some campers were upset to learn last week that they would have to vacate their non-reservable campground sites by Friday to make room for an anticipated 300 First Nations members.
The issue heated up when Basil said campers would be forcibly evicted by B.C. Park authorities since he had a letter confirming his use of the grounds. A portion of the campground is on traditional territory.
But he backed down after speaking with Lake.
In the end, all but three groups of campers voluntarily left and 60 of Basil's guests showed up, according to Lake.
The interaction between aboriginal and non-aboriginal campers went well, said Basil.
"Nobody needed to be displaced and nobody should feel they need to be displaced," said Basil. "And I have to say I appreciate the people and the respect they gave me in not staying. That was great."
Among those who did stay were Mark Davy, his wife and two children, who drove to the campground from Chilliwack on Thursday.
Davy said their experience was no different than any other camping they've done except for the lack of kids to play with for their children, age seven and 10.
He said after long discussions with his wife, they agreed that the First Nations group should have invited the public to observe their gathering in a similar fashion as powwows in Squamish and Chilliwack.
Basil already had that in mind.
"There's an education process here that has to take place and I think that probably in the upcoming events there will be time for general public involvement," he said. "We'll be feeding and feasting with everyone that comes."
Lake said it was a difficult situation that could have been averted with better communication.
"I'm not blaming him (Basil) but we would've like to have worked with him to do this in a more organized fashion," he said.
"We weren't given much choice. We could've either said to Mr. Basil 'No you're not allowed to do this,' which could've created a situation that First Nations might have seen it as a slap in the face. We wanted to be culturally sensitive but we also wanted to consider members of the public that were there."