The federal government is expected to announce in the next few weeks that it intends to return the land where Royal Roads University stands to Indigenous peoples, says a university official.
Philip Twyford, Royal Roads’ vice-president of finance and operations, said the university is expecting the declaration this month or next month, although the details have not been worked out.
The university currently leases 60 hectares from the Department of National Defence for $1 a year, and in exchange maintains the entire 230-hectare Hatley Park property on which it sits. After DND declared the land surplus to its needs in 2016, the federal and provincial governments, Songhees and Esquimalt Nations, and other Indigenous groups began negotiations on the future of the land.
The federal government’s declaration will start another round of negotiations that could take a number of years, said Twyford, who called repatriation of the land “the right thing to do.”
“We think this is one of the truest forms of reconciliation going and we firmly support it.”
The university signed agreements in 2018 with the Songhees Nation and in 2019 with the Esquimalt Nation that outline the process of working together “to ensure the university’s continued and successful operation,” he said.
Twyford said the long-term intent is to purchase a portion of the property, meaning the university would be operating on treaty-settlement land.
“We do a lot of reconciliation work here,” he said. “To have a university actually on treaty-settlement land is something that really energizes our staff.”
Twyford said “at this point in time” the university is expected to continue to operate on the land.
“We don’t expect anything is going to change in the short to medium term.”
He said the university’s location includes wetlands and protected areas, and holds Indigenous remains.
“So there’s a lot of history on the land,” Twyford said. “It goes back many thousands of years.”
An open house is being held at the Colwood university today to help people understand what is happening. The open house runs from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Quarterdeck, located in the Grant Building adjacent to Hatley Castle.
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