The Wakamow Aboriginal Community Association (WACA) can use Tatawaw Park for free for its National Indigenous Peoples Day activities after city council waived the rental fees.
City council voted unanimously on a motion during its June 10 regular meeting to waive the booking fee of $445.69. The waiver request is for this year only.
WACA intends to use the park from June 14 to 21 for its annual powwow, to unveil a sign featuring the park’s new name — it was originally the Wild Animal Park — and for actual events for National Indigenous Peoples Day.
The parks and recreation department does not have a rental fee for Tatawaw Park, so administration decided to charge the same cost as it does for Happy Valley Park, explained city manager Jim Puffalt. Conversely, this is a unique situation since this is a community-wide celebration that fits into the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action.
Lori Deets, board chair of WACA, spoke to council and explained she did not understand why rental fees were charged in the first place. She pointed out being able to use the park for free is a matter of reconciliation.
“You need to have an understanding of what those calls to action mean,” she said. “I believe it your duty to follow those calls to action.”
Waiving the fees so WACA could spend one day celebrating the renaming of the park is one thing, pointed out Coun. Brian Swanson. However, the association wants to spend seven days overall using the park. He didn’t see how this was any different from hosting Motif in Happy Valley Park.
“We incur expenses for doing these things,” Swanson said, pointing out the municipality has to cut the grass and maintain Tatawaw Park.
This is a community event, but there are also hundreds of other community events held each year, agreed Coun. Dawn Luhning. She pointed out she had to pay $1,000 to host an event in Wakamow Valley.
Luhning then put forward an amendment to make WACA’s application for a waiver a one-time request for this year only.
“We have to level the playing field to a certain degree,” she said. “I believe this opens up and sets a precedent of us waiving a fee for utilization of an event that other community organizations are not asking for and don’t ask for.”
The amendment makes a blanket statement that no other community groups should be allowed to make a similar request, said Coun. Crystal Froese. Council should be able to hear from people who want to use the parks and then make decisions on that. This is part of the democratic process.
“Cutting this off at a one-year only, to me it isn’t working toward good community partnerships,” she added.
Mayor Fraser Tolmie didn’t think the amendment ruled out other groups asking for similar waivers. Council wants to be fair to every organization that comes forward; every organization can speak to council and make such requests.
In response to a question from Froese, Puffalt explained while the amendment says this is a one-time waiver, it doesn’t prevent people or groups from making similar requests in the future.
Coun. Chris Warren supported the original motion, but not the amendment itself. He pointed out it sends the wrong message by suggesting council won’t waive the fees in the future.
Council then voted 5-2 on the amendment; Froese and Warren were opposed. Council then voted unanimously on the amended motion to waive the rental fee for WACA.
The next regular council meeting is Monday, June 24.