Timeline shows history of Vancouver’s Sen̓áḵw project
The story of the Sen̓áḵw development goes back long before before European settlers.
With 6,000 units of housing and 4 million square feet of property, the Sen̓áḵw development aims to be largest net zero carbon residential project in Canada. While it recently broke ground, the project’s roots go back decades into the history of the Squamish First Nation, the project’s developer.
“The development of Sen̓áḵw has the potential to begin to right the historic injustice against the Squamish People, create a legacy for future generations of Squamish People, and contribute to achieving their goal of economic independence,” said the Nation.
How we got here
1791: European settlers arrive in the Vancouver area. Prior to this, Squamish ancestors had a village at Senákw. Every year, families from upper Squamish villages would visit Sen̓áḵw to fish, hunt and harvest. Nation says there was an abundance of elk, beaver, deer, salmon, duck and cedar. The ancestors built longhouses and brought neighbouring tribes together for potlatches.
1886: The areas around Sen̓áḵw are getting developed and portions of the reserve lands are expropriated, including over 3.5 acres for railways. Another 7 acres are expropriated for railways in 1901. That Nation explained that there was a great deal of industrial expansion in False Creek in the years that followed, with mounting pressure for the residents of Senákw to vacate their land.
1913: The pressure reaches its limit. The B.C. government forces Squamish Nation people to surrender the Sen̓áḵw lands. All the residents, along with some of their personal belongings, are loaded up on a barge and towed across the inlet to other Squamish reserves.
1977: After years of preparation, the Squamish Chiefs and Council begin the Omnibus Trust Action against the federal government. The action was deliberately filed just before significant changes to the Limitations Act were made that would have barred the claims thereafter.
2003: Following decades in the courts, which also heard counter claims by the Musqueam and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations to interests in the reserve, the Federal Court of Canada gives the Nation back control over a misshapen portion of the earlier, larger reserve. According to the Nation, of the original 80 acres, just 10.48 acres exist today as reserve land.
April, 2019: The Squamish First Nation announces plans for a large-scale apartment development near the south end of the Burrard Bridge that could include 3,000 housing units.
November, 2019: The Squamish Nation releases more details, announcing that they plan to construct 11 housing towers and have increased housing units to 6,000 on 11 acres of property at the south end of the Burrard Street Bridge. Because the development is situated on federal reserve land, the nation does not need permission from the city to proceed.
May, 2022: Squamish Nation Council Chairperson Khelsilem and city of Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart sign a services agreement for the project. The services agreement creates a framework to guide the government-to-government relationship between the Nation and the city of Vancouver and ensures access to municipal services, amenities, and infrastructure for the Sen̓áḵw neighbourhood over time.
July, 2022: Pre-construction activities begin. This includes installing fences and signage. Crews also began mobilizing site trailers and hooking up temporary power.
August, 2022: the Squamish Nation held a Blessing Ceremony on the site. The ceremony was held to honour their ancestors who lived on the site and to honour the land and trees before altering the land.
September, 2022: Squamish Nation Council Chairperson Khelsilem joins Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau for the announcement that the federal government will provide $1.4 billion to support the development. It is the largest loan from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) in Canadian history. The project team breaks ground.