The City of Victoria will decide on returning the top of Beacon Hill to local First Nations at a meeting this week. The area is where the Checkers Pavilion currently sits.
The motion recommending the city return the top of Beacon Hill to Esquimalt and Songhees First Nations was put forward by Victoria Coun. Marianne Alto.
Mayor Lisa Helps and Coun. Charlayne Thornton-Joe are supporting Alto’s motion.
Returning the hilltop to local First Nations is a “tangible, powerful act of reconciliation,” Alto said in her report to council. The idea stems from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s call for action from municipalities.
The boarded-up Checkers Pavilion will be removed and replaced with a Long House, which would be used for First Nations cultural and educational activities.
According to Alto, the Long House would be about the same size as the pavilion. The city would retain ownership of the land but would enable perpetual use for a Long House.
The public will also have access to observe the activities in the Long House, except for
occasions of cultural significance. One of the concepts behind the initiative is to provide an
opportunity for broad learning about modern and historical First Nations activities on the site.
It is being recommended the remaining $32,000 in the city’s strategic priorities fund should be used to remove the pavilion and to expedite the longhouse proposal.
The City has determined that rebuilding the Checkers Pavilion would be a major remediation
project, due to its advanced state of decay and disrepair.
The Checkers Pavilion has not been in active use since the 1970s and was boarded up in 1995, after it was considered unsafe to enter.
The City of Victoria has already set aside land on the slope immediately to the southeast of the hilltop. The area is traditional lands of the Lekwungen People and will be used for re-burial of First Nations remains uncovered during excavations throughout the City.