Addressing Growth and Development:

Musqueam and City of Vancouver


When a service agreement between Musqueam First Nation (Musqueam) and the City of Vancouver (the City) was signed in November of 2013, it had been 10 years in the making. Although the City had been providing services to Musqueam for over 30 years, previous service agreements had expired and the two parties were unable to come to a new agreement for a variety of reasons:

  • Staff and political turnover
  • Limited human resources to move the negotiations forward combined with competing priorities (Reconciliation, 2010 Olympic Games)
  • A need to find a way to address the concerns of both parties about growth and development potential on-reserve

Despite the length of negotiations, both communities were very pleased with the end result. During the signing ceremony, Chief Wayne Sparrow stated that the agreement was more than just a service agreement, calling it a “relationship agreement”.

How did they do it?

The parties were able to move forward with negotiations despite staff and political turnover largely because they began the renegotiation process by signing a Relationship Protocol Agreement between the two communities. This protocol, along with ongoing documentation of negotiations, enabled new staff and council to trust the work that had been done in the past without the need to start over.

Growth and development concerns were handled by identifying very clear level of service statements about the capacity available for services to the reserve. Statements were included to recognize Musqueam’s right to develop land as they wished, however any service needs beyond the stated maximum capacity would have cost implications for expanding offsite infrastructure. These statements met the needs of Musqueam and the City, while providing clarity for future planning.

Through the negotiation process, a number of cross boundary issues were identified that need resolution. To ensure the service agreement negotiations weren’t further delayed, but that these important issues would be addressed, the issues were recognized in formal letters for deferred discussion. Musqueam and the City continue to work through these issues of joint planning.

Key Lessons

  • Establish a relationship protocol at the outset of the agreement that formalizes the commitment of the communities to work together and the way that they will enact their commitment (i.e. council to council meetings, assigned staff, etc.)
  • Document the process of negotiation so that it can be referred back to in the future
  • Establish clear levels of service with the future in mind. Identify limits on capacity, flows, and service parameters in the service agreement.