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Cleaner claims First Nations right to put up her posters

Apr 11 2012
Meaghan Walker puts up a business poster near her home in Victoria Tuesday. 

Meaghan Walker puts up a business poster near her home in Victoria Tuesday.

Photograph by: Adrian Lam , timescolonist.com (April 2012)

Victoria is built on unceded aboriginal territory and First Nations should have the right to put up advertising posters without city interference, says Meaghan Walker, a member of Cowichan Tribes and owner of a house cleaning firm.

The city should recognize the authority of First Nations governments in the same way it recognizes business licences from other municipalities, she said. "I do believe strongly in the concept that aboriginal bodies should be acknowledged and have some authority over the business practices of their people in traditional territories," said Walker, owner of We Love Dirty Kitchens.

"But the city position is that Esquimalt and Songhees [First Nations] don't have a say over this," she said.

Walker and her husband, Charles Champion - a nonaboriginal U.S. citizen - are being taken to court by the city for putting up business advertisements on B.C Hydro poles and other locations and for operating without a licence.

"I believe that the lands in question have never stopped being the territory and jurisdiction of the aboriginal peoples," said Walker, who has found posters on poles are the best way to promote business.

Walker, who has run the business with Champion for about two years, said it is based on the Cowichan Tribes reserve and she has the permission of Esquimalt Chief Andy Thomas to operate in the Victoria area.

Thomas said he had hoped some agreement could be found before the case headed to court, but he agrees with Walker's claims. "I think we have been invisible for too long. We have been cut out of the economy and the workforce for too long," he said. "We need to have our rightful place in our own homeland."

Walker and Champion say they have tried to find a compromise so the case does not have to land in court, but one complication is the city believes Champion, not Walker, is the owner of the business.

"I think they know there's an aboriginal rights issue here," Champion said.

Walker is partially disabled so he helps with the work, but is not the owner, he said.

Walker initially started the business to prevent the family from becoming homeless, Champion said.

City spokeswoman Katie Josephson said as the case is before the courts she is unable to talk about its specifics. "However, I can confirm that the trial involves the individual in violation of a city bylaw, Mr. Champion, who is not aboriginal," she said. A trial date was set for this week, but has been rescheduled to July 4, Josephson said.

Walker and Champion said they hope a solution can be found before the case goes to court and have offered to cease using posters if an economically viable alternative marketing method is found.

Meantime, they are willing to put up fewer posters and modify the poster activity if there are complaints from certain areas, Champion said.


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