Message from Squamish Nation Council

Sen̓áḵw (Kitsilano Indian Reserve #6)

Dear Members,

Squamish Nation Council is excited about the future of Sen̓áḵw - to honour the past and prepare for the future. Council has completed research on how best to approach the Sen̓áḵw Project (“Sen̓áḵw”) to achieve economic results and provide benefits for our membership. Last Spring, Council invited membership to an information session to share a vision for the project and introduce Westbank as our potential partner.

In June of 2017, Council engaged in an extensive process to confirm the highest and best use for Sen̓áḵw. Council invited developers to participate in a Request for Proposal (RFP) process to consider a 50/50 partnership with the Nation to build rental and strata residences at Sen̓áḵw. Council received several proposals from developers and decided that it was prudent to retain Ernst & Young advisors to review the RFP submissions, interview the proponents, and provide recommendations to Council. Through the RFP and Ernst & Young’s recommendations

Council concluded that a partnership with Westbank will generate highest and best use leasing opportunities at Sen̓áḵw. Council is now wanting to engage with membership to consider the 50/50 partnership opportunity with Westbank. More specifically we will need to revisit the Sen̓áḵw 2011 designation (Lots 1 and 3), approve a new designation (Lot 2), and approve business terms between the Nation and Westbank to maximize profits for Squamish Nation membership. Council and membership must follow Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) referendum requirements to consider any leasing opportunities on our reserve lands and Sen̓áḵw is no different.

Included in this mailout package is referendum information including the proposed Sen̓áḵw Designation and Business terms. To allow members to make an informed decision about proceeding in partnership with Westbank, we will be hosting several information sessions and providing many opportunities to learn more in advance of the referendum on Tuesday, December 10, 2019. We encourage all members to connect with us between now and then so we as a community can come together and move forward in a meaningful way.

We are seeking membership input on two votes related to the development of the Sen̓áḵw lands: (1) a land designation vote and (2) a business terms vote. Membership will be asked to vote on these two questions:

The land designation vote

The designation vote is to determine if membership is in favour of:

  • Amending the 2011 Designation for Lots 1 and 3,
  • Approving designation of Lot 2
  • Approving a nominal rent structure,
  • Approving a maximum lease term to 120 years to facilitate construction, and
  • Approving an update so that the land uses are consistent with a mixed-use development.


The business terms vote relates to a proposed 50/50 partnership with local developer Westbank. Westbank is proposing to work in partnership with the Squamish Nation to develop the Sen̓áḵw Project. All profits generated from the lands would be split 50/50 with Westbank. This will create a long-term income stream for the Nation, while capitalizing on Westbank’s expertise in construction and development.


The development of the Sen̓áḵw lands will create a highly sustainable, mixed-use project of primarily purpose-built rental housing that will benefit the Squamish Nation economically for generations to come. This project will tell the story of the Squamish Nation and the history of their lands, while realizing the potential this initiative represents for the Nation, Vancouver, and Canada. The project aims to achieve the following:

  1. City-building: a transit-oriented mixed-use project of primarily purpose-built rental for Vancouver.
  2. Demonstrate climate leadership on a global scale.
  3. Create a legacy project for the Squamish Nation that reflects its history and culture.
  4. Generate significant economic benefit for the Squamish Nation to allow it to meet its pressing housing, education, and social services needs.
  5. Reconciliation: an indigenous-private sector collaboration that furthers national reconciliation.
Q: What does the name Sen̓áḵw mean?add

The name for Sen̓áḵw is representative of its place. “Àḵw” meaning head, representing the head of False Creek, “en̓” refers to “being in the middle”, representing the middle of the Squamish territory in the Kitsilano area, and “S” signifies a place name. Together, the name Sen̓áḵw is interpreted as “The place inside the head of False Creek”.

Q: What is the history of Sen̓áḵw?add

Sen̓áḵw is part of the unceded territory of the Squamish Nation dating back to the time immemorial. The land was as a seasonal fishing village, which became a permanent village in the 19th Century. In 1868, the Federal Government established Kitsilano Indian Reserve No. 6, a parcel of land of approximately 37 acres. Over the decades to come it was further annexed until the Squamish residents were provide a small stipend and barged off the land. After a decades long court battle launched in the late 1970s, ownership of 10.5 acres of the Kitsilano Reserve lands were returned in 2003. Today is the next chapter for these lands where development of Sen̓áḵw has the potential to not only partially right this historical injustice, but also to add significant new much-needed low-carbon rental housing to the city.

Q: Why develop these lands today?add

The Squamish Nation relies heavily on leasing revenue. Many leases are due to expire in the next 25 years, developing reserve lands now will ensure financial security in the future.

Q: What is the Proposed Project?add

The development of the Sen̓áḵw Lands will tell the world Squamish Nation’s story and history. It will create a highly sustainable, mixed-use project of primarily purpose-built rental housing of approximately 3.4 million square feet or 6,000 units that will be an economic driver for the Nation now and for generations to come.

Overall objectives of the project include:

  1. City-building: the Sen̓áḵw Lands will be a world class city building example of a transit-oriented project with purpose-built and highly sustainable rental housing delivered where it is needed.
  2. Climate Leadership on a global scale: the development will showcase climate leadership on a global scale as a showpiece netzero project. Our Nation’s deep connection to the environment and stewardship dates back millennia and is the foundation that will set a new standard for sustainability, including district energy and progressive, low carbon transportation options.
  3. A Legacy for the Squamish Nation: future uses on the site will tell the story of the Sen̓áḵw lands and reflect the ongoing legacy of the Nation by weaving our rich artistic tradition into the very architecture of the project.
  4. Significant economic benefit: long-term income will allow our community to meet its housing, education, and social service needs. It will help deliver improved health care, culture, language, arts and will include opportunities for member housing, that will help ensure the success and well-being of membership far into the future. The project will create employment opportunities for members at all stages of the development including the project’s design, construction, public art, and in many other aspects.
Q: What are we voting on?add

Squamish Council is asking membership to vote on 2 ballots: a land designation vote and a business terms vote.

  • The land designation vote relates to Lots 1, 2, and 3 at Sen̓áḵw. In 2011, Lots 1 and 3 were designated to permit development. Lot 2 was not designated in 2011 but, to enable a large-scale redevelopment that maximizes economic benefit, its designation is needed.
  • The business terms vote relates to a proposed 50% / 50% partnership with local developer Westbank to redevelop the Sen̓áḵw lands. Westbank would bring funding, development expertise, and construction experience. This partnership approach has Westbank shoulder the financing risk and allows the Nation to generate the economic benefit at a lower risk for the Nation.
Designation Vote
Q: What is a designation?add

The Government of Canada holds legal title to the Reserve for the Nation. Designating reserve lands allows for leases to be granted. Designated lands do not lose their reserve status, they will remain fully as a Squamish Nation Reserve and can only be used for the purposes authorized by the designation.

Q: Is Sen̓áḵw currently designated?add

Sen̓áḵw is comprised of Lot 1, Lot 2 and Lot 3. Lot 1 and Lot 3 were designated in 2011; however, amendments of the current designation are required to proceed with the Westbank proposal. The designation terms applicable to Lot 1 and Lot 3 are registered in the Indian Lands Registry under no. 6062658.

Q: What are the details of the vote to amend the designation?add

The amendment, which is necessary to allow the development to go forward, designates Lot 2 (which was not designated in 2011), approves a nominal rent structure, approves a maximum lease term to 120 years (to facilitate construction), and incorporates land uses consistent with a mixed-use development.

Q: Why does membership need to vote about designating the lands?add

The Indian Act and the Indian Referendum Regulations require that Squamish Nation members vote on any proposed changes to land designations.

Q: Since lots 1 & 3 were previously designated, if lot 2 does not receive designation, how much of the project can still proceed?add

Most likely none of it. The designation would be put back to vote.

Q: Under the designation, what is a Nominal Rent Structure?add

A nominal rent structure makes this business opportunity possible. It essentially means that land rent will not apply. The Nation is contributing its interest in the Sen̓áḵw lands for its 50% interest in the partnership. Westbank would be providing all financial guarantees during construction for the partnership for its 50%.

Business Terms
Q: Why does the Squamish Nation need to vote about the business terms?add

The vote is to determine if the Squamish Nation community is in favour of the business terms with Westbank as the development partner.

Q: What if the ballot for the designation is favourable, but there is not a majority of support for the business arrangement with Westbank?add

In this case, the designation of Lot 2 and the amended designation of Lot 1 and Lot 3 would go forward. In this scenario though there would not be a business arrangement; council and membership could consider another business proposal at Sen̓áḵw in the future.

Q: Is Westbank – The Westbank Nation?add

No, Westbank Nation and the Westbank Development Corp. are not related.

Q: Who is Westbank?add

Established in 1992, Westbank is one of the most respected developers in North America. Westbank has completed or is constructing dozens of high-profile sites such as Woodwards, Vancouver House, Mirvish Village (Toronto), Telus Garden, and Oakridge. Westbank is unique because of their commitment to artistry, sustainability, and because they favour projects that are catalysts for larger change that go beyond the borders of the projects themselves. They are able to bring the ambitious sustainability goals of the project to a reality.

Q: What is special about this partnership?add

This business arrangement could ultimately see the construction of 3.25 million square feet of development with world leading sustainable design. It would be the first of its kind on reserve lands in Canada. More than being ground-breaking though, this partnership offers significant cultural, economic, and business opportunities to the Nation both during construction and into the future.

Q: What are the key aspects of the proposed business terms with Westbank?add

The partnership is proposed to be 50% to the Nation and 50% to Westbank. This means that each partner will have an equal say and will earn 50% of the economic value. Other key terms include the following:

  • No loan guarantees will be provided by the Nation at any point in time,
  • Westbank would provide any cash requirements over and above project loans through construction to completion,
  • The Nation would contribute the land through 120-year leases, the land will come back to the Nation after this,
  • As a self-governing Nation, the Nation would have full rights to charge property taxes,
  • As a requirement for moving into the second phase of the development, Westbank would need to demonstrate its ability to meet performance benchmarks throughout the project,
  • Westbank has committed to creating employment, training, and educational opportunities for Nation members through each phase of the development.
Q: What is the cost to the Nation for the development, is Westbank paying the bills for development & the Nation contributing to the land in order for the 50/50 split of profits? Or does the Nation have to be party to construction loans?add

The Nation is not putting cash into the development. Westbank will provide any direct guarantees necessary for construction loans and any amount needed over and above the construction loan for the build out will be provided by Westbank. In this way the Nation is not required to take financial risk or provide guarantees but is still able to receive 50% of the profit.

Q: What is the difference between rental and strata?add

Strata is the term that refers to condos that are sold to buyers and in this case the strata condos. Rental units are units that the partnership (50% owned by the Nation) would keep and rent out on a monthly basis to generate revenues.

Q: What phase will be built first Rental? In the documents it says all the revenue will go towards the mortgages 35-50 years and then we will see profit after that?add

It is anticipated that the first phase will be rental. Deciding when and what to build is based on market conditions. Not all revenue will go towards mortgages but a large percentage of it will. There will be profit distributed in the first years but it will grow over time and will increase significantly once debt has been repaid 35-50 years from now (depending on how long the term of the mortgage is).

Q: Will the Nation collect property taxes from both strata and rental?add

Yes, the Nation is permitted to collect property taxes. These taxes would be paid by both the leasehold strata condo owners, and also from tenants who are renting in the buildings that are built as rental apartments.

Q: Will property transfer tax be levied on the strata units? If so who will maintain the land registry and will we have to opt into the FNCIDA tools to do this?add

Yes, FNCIDA is an option to manage the registry and might be the most effective tool but other options are possible.

Q: What are estimated profits for the Nation from this partnership?add

The amount of leasehold strata vs. the amount of rental apartment units will depend on market conditions. Assuming 30% of the development is leasehold strata, and 70% is rental, the Nation is estimated to receive the following value:

  1. Nation Amenity Contribution (“NAC”) = $180m in first 10 years
  2. Strata profits = $290m in first 10 years
  3. Rental income = $8 to $10 Billion over the next 110 years
Q: For the rental units, I assume that the property tax will be levied on the building as a whole like the Plaza or Park Royal Towers, true or false?add

Yes this is true.

Q: What is meant by Nation Entity or Nation Partner?add

A Nation Entity is a legal "entity" which is a corporation, a limited partnership, a trust, or other legal structure that is created to limit Nation liability and hold the contractual relationships of this development. The contractual relationships include leases, financing arrangements, agreements for the distribution of profits, and governance around decisionmaking. This proposed project would use Limited Partnerships to limit the Nation’s legal liability, but the day-to-day decisionmaking would be through a General Partnership that is directly owned by the Nations economic development corporation called Nch'kay Development Corporation. Nch’kay is accountable to a Board of Directors made up of community members and industry professionals as well as to membership through the Nation’s ownership of Nch’kay.

Q: Who is the representative for the nation who will be making the major decisions?add

The representatives have not yet been appointed as the Master Development Agreement (MDA), will not be finalized until membership provides direction if they find the business terms favorable or not.

Q: Has Westbank done any other partnership like this? If yes, has their been any default on mortgages?add

Yes. Two examples of partnerships like this that Westbank has done before include Oakridge (partner is Quadreal) and Mirvish Village (partner is Peterson Group). Neither partnership has experienced any defaults.

Q: Would the development include below market housing?add

The Partnership may jointly decide to build below market housing (separate from the units that are available to Nation members) because it allows the Partnership to get access to grants or financing on better terms that outweigh the cost of providing below market housing.

Q: What discounts for Nation members will be available?add

Between 150 and 200 units will be available to Nation members at a discounted rate compared to the prevailing market price at the time of sale.

Q: Why is Squamish Nation not getting a higher percentage of the profits?add

The Nation has negotiated with Westbank to provide all financing guarantees and equity requirements during construction. If the Nation were to secure a larger share of the project profits, the Nation would have to bear more of the financing risk and cash investment requirements.

Q: When would the Nation receive money?add

Firstly, there will be payments to the Nation each time a phase of the project is ready to start construction. Secondly, once each phase completes construction it will start to generate revenues with occupancy of strata condo units or when renters move into buildings.

The development will be constructed in phases with an anticipated 10-year build-out. Each phase will be subject to a lease, which will have a term of 120 years to allow for the period of construction and, if sold as a leasehold condo, a sublease to the final customer of no less than 99-years (99-years is the industry standard). After construction is completed, the Nation will receive profits for the duration of each lease and then the land will come back to the Nation at the end of each lease.

Q: Will there be employment and training opportunities?add

Yes, one of the goals of the partnership with Westbank is to create employment, training, and educational opportunities for Squamish Nation members through each phase of the redevelopment.

Q: Will this project be subject to the City of Vancouver approvals process and will there be opportunities for public engagement?add

Sen̓áḵw is Federal Reserve land, and as such it is not required to follow the approvals process for redevelopment in Vancouver. However, the Squamish Nation is committed to engaging with the surrounding community.

Q: How will the development respond to the existing neighbourhood context?add

Vancouver is a young, evolving city. Even over the period of a couple of decades, both sides of False Creek have transformed dramatically. Accordingly, the development of Sen̓áḵw should be viewed through the lens of the Vancouver of 2050, not the Vancouver of 2020. Sen̓áḵw sits within a walkable, amenity-rich, and well-connected neighbourhood in Vancouver, close to downtown.

Q: How will issues like transportation and services be addressed?add

The project team hopes to work with the City of Vancouver, Translink, and Metro Vancouver, to develop a comprehensive servicing plan for the development, including municipal utilities, third-party utilities, transportation connections, and potential local transit improvements.

Q: What is the timeline for this redevelopment?add

Design and public engagement will occur through 2020 with construction anticipated to begin in 2021.

Q: Who else will be involved?add

All levels of government have recognized housing as one of the defining issues of our generation. As such, we hope to work with all three levels of government—the City of Vancouver, the Province of British Columbia, the Government of Canada, Metro Vancouver, Translink, BC Housing and CMHC—to ensure this project provides one of the most significant contributions of rental housing in the history of Vancouver.

Q: Will there be any opportunities for community input in this development process?add

While the project team is not required to follow the City of Vancouver community engagement process, the Squamish Nation intends to provide opportunities for the public to engage with their proposal and learn more about the development.

Q: What happens if the economy tanks? Do we have sufficient revenue to cover that during the 10 year construction phase. Is it an interest free loan? Will we lose our DB to help pay the interest?add

Yes, markets adjust and rates rise and fall, however,

  1. In soft markets, rents don’t decrease they continue to rise given inflation one reduces rents historically
  2. The feature of the phasing program is that decisions to do strata condo can be made during construction - if market softens then more rental - there’s a mass of pent up demand for rental given land is too expensive to carry debt on top of it. That’s why you have a massive competitive advantage given you start out with no cost to land but it’s value is worth $600m.
  3. There will only be an opportunity if council chooses to increase DB not decrease it.
Q: The risk Westbank will be taking mortgages out if they default the bank can seize assets meaning the land?add

The land itself will never be at risk to a bank. The most security a lender will be permitted is to the lease and each lease will be independent of one another.

Q: Each partner needs to secure financing; if the nation cannot Westbank will lend the nation this money what happens if we can't pay it back? Will they seize the land? What happens if there is no revenue to pay back the loan?add

There is no ability for Westbank to seize land in this business deal. Out of the Nation's 50% of profits, only 1/2 of this amount is eligible in a given year to go towards repaying Westbank loans (if the nation decided to borrow money from Westbank). This means that 1/2 of the Nations 50% of the total project profit will always be available as earnings for the Nation in a given year. The Nation could always decide to apply this extra amount to the repayment of loans at the Nations sole discretion.

Q: Are you confident in Westbank’s quality of construction?add

By elevating each area in which they develop, through architecture, interior and exterior design and finishing, Westbank has historically obtained a premium over the market. As demonstrated in their highly successful pre-sales, over the past 25 years, Westbank has gained a reputation in their markets for being valued at a significant premium to competitors, because of their commitment to design excellence. At the core of Westbank’s practice is a commitment to the creation of a body of work that exemplifies the successful integration of art into architecture. The company strives to develop relationships with the world’s top architectural talent so that it functions as a patron of great architecture. Westbank seeks to foster the artistry in its craft by commissioning the most innovative and creative work being done in the world today, and utilizes public art installations to make its projects into landmarks in the cities in which they are built. The company’s longstanding relationship with Fazioli, the world's leading piano company, exemplifies their commitment to the integration of art and architecture.

The “Westbank Premium” separates the company’s projects from other developments that are typically perceived as commodities. Each new addition to the company’s body of work justifies this brand premium and allows it to grow, through remarkable performance.

Westbank has built three of the most valuable hotels in Canada, the Fairmont Pacific Rim, the Shangri-La Vancouver and the Shangri-La Toronto and Vancouver’s most valuable office tower, Shaw Tower. The continued success of these projects and their appreciation in value over time speaks to the quality of construction and the longevity of Westbank’s buildings. In addition, Westbank homes not only retain their value over time but consistently appreciate in value over time.

Q: December 10 vote questionsadd
  • Question 1: Do you approve of the Amendment of Designation of Lots 1 and 3 and the Designation of Lot 2?
  • Question 2: Are you in favour of the proposed development of I.R. 6, to be undertaken jointly by the Squamish Nation and Westbank Development Corp.?
Q: When is the vote?add

December 10, 2019

Q: Where do I vote?add

There will be two poling stations:

  1. Chief Joe Mathias, 100 Capilano Rd, North Vancouver, open December 10, 2019 9 am to 8 pm PST
  2. Totem Hall, 1380 Stawamus Rd, Squamish, open December 10, 2019 9 am to 8 pm PST
Q: Who is eligible to vote?add

Before the first information meeting, a list of eligible Nation electors (the “Voters List”) is posted at the Nation’s office. If you or someone you know does not appear on the voters List, please notify the Electoral Officer or any deputy electoral officer.

Q: Voting information:add
  • In person polling stations: from 9 am to 8 pm on December 10, members can vote in person at Totem Hall in Squamish or Chief Joe Mathias Centre in North Vancouver.
  • Mail in ballot: a mail-in ballot package has been delivered to voters who reside off the reserve by Indigenous Services Canada. If you have not received a package and are eligible to vote, please contact Petula Maxwell ( Completed mail in ballots need to be in the Indigenous Services Canada Department mailboxes at 1138 Melville St, Vancouver, BC V6E 4S3 no later than December 9, 2019 or they need to be hand delivered to the Department on or before December 9, 2019. Squamish voters can also bring their completed ballot to a polling station from 9 am - 8 pm on December 10, 2019.

Sen̓áḵw Lands

The Squamish Nation’s Sen̓áḵw Lands are located at the edge of Kitsilano, one of the most pedestrian and bicycle-oriented neighbourhoods in Vancouver.

These diagrams illustrate how the Senakw reserve lands changed over the 20th century.

The Sen̓áḵw lands are part of the unceded territory of the Squamish Nation, and were historically home to a seasonal fishing village which became a permanent village in the 19th Century. In 1868, the Federal Government established Kitsilano Indian Reserve No. 6, a parcel of land of approximately 37 acres; in 1877, it was expanded to 80 acres—a footprint inclusive of the modern-day Vanier Park, Molson Brewery, Seaforth Armory, and condominiums & offices of Creekside Drive. In 1913, under pressure to free up the Sen̓áḵw lands for industrial development and use by the City of Vancouver, the Province of British Columbia effectively annexed the lands. It provided the Squamish residents with a small stipend and then barged residents and their possessions up to Squamish territory in Howe Sound. Over the ensuing decades the reserve was dismantled, with various private and public parties taking various parcels for the Armory, the Burrard Bridge, and military staging during WWII. By 1965, the False Creek Reserve lands had been substantially sold off. In the late 1970s, the Squamish Nation began a decades long court action over rightful ownership of the Kitsilano Reserve lands. In 2001, they were awarded the return of a small 10.5 acre parcel of land under and surrounding the Burrard Street bridge.



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