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Mental health facility, commercial district are in works for Riverview

Six-week feedback period for Coquitlam lands vision; Kwikwetlem looks to receive benefits

A new vision for the old Riverview Hospital grounds in Coquitlam was unveiled for public comment yesterday (Thursday).

But how the provincial government’s plans will jive with those from the Kwikwetlem First Nation are unclear.

The high-level document was released by three provincial ministers in front of Valleyview Pavilion, a 1950s facility that will be razed to make way for two new buildings for mental health patients.

Rich Coleman, Terry Lake and Stephanie Cadieux heralded the plan to build a 105-bed complex to replace the Centre for Mental Health and Addiction, located on the Willingdon Lands in Burnaby.

Another building with 38 beds will be constructed to replace the Maples Adolescent Treatment Centre and Provincial Assessment Centre, also currently located on the Willingdon Lands.

The province’s $175-million investment “is significant,” said Coleman, whose housing portfolio includes Riverview.

And Health Minister Lake said the new facilities will be in addition to the new 75-bed mental-health unit that will be open — around the same time, in 2019 — at Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster.

But while many city officials at the press conference welcomed the news of more mental health services in the region, they also grumbled at the lack of details and the manner in which the vision had been dropped on them — Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart said he received his copy 30 minutes prior.

According to A Vision for Renewing Riverview and remarks made by Coleman Thursday, BC Housing intends to follow the community’s wishes to have Riverview return as a mental-health hub.

But that’s contrary to the objectives of the Kwikwetlem First Nation, which claims aboriginal rights and title to Riverview (it’s proceeding with legal action against the province, a process it said will take up to five years).

The band said it’s seeking to maximize economic spinoffs and include market housing, a topic not well received at the last Riverview open house forum at the Executive Plaza Hotel in June.

In its mandate, which is attached to the visioning document, the band states it objects to “the continued use or expansion of health services and/or facilities, including mental health, addictions or treatment facilities without the express prior consent of the KFN.”

As well, the Kwikwetlem have voiced their expectation for “significant financial accommodation for redevelopment that is not in-step with KFN principles, objectives and interests of the site.”

In addition, any commercial opportunities that arise, KFN will “want to own some or all of those businesses,” it states.

And while BC Housing has committed to a “break-even mandate” for Riverview, the provincial vision makes it clear that any money earned by Kwikwetlem won’t be part of that core principle.

“Additional revenue must be generated — beyond whatever revenues are generated by KFN opportunities — to fulfill the overall vision and mandate for this site,” it reads.

Kwikwetlem Chief Ron Giesbrecht was introduced at Thursday’s news conference but did not stay long and did not return a call from The Tri-City News for comment afterward.

Both Coleman and the Tri-Cities Chamber of Commerce have pledged to work with the band, although Coleman told reporters no decisions had been made regarding market housing on the site.

Coleman said the province is also committed to creating a complete community at Riverview. Its vision shows four distinct precincts: at the north, a health component that includes the cemetery; in the centre, the village and high street; and at the south end, economic development. All amenities would be within a 10-minute walk that would see shops, schools, parks and public places with a mix of housing types to meet all demographics and income levels, it reads.

Chamber CEO Michael Hind issued a press release Thursday, stating Victoria’s vision is in line with the business group’s goals.

But Coquitlam Coun. Craig Hodge, chair of the city’s Riverview Lands advisory committee, said much still has to be discussed and he plans to call a committee meeting for next month.

Coquitlam-Maillardville NDP MLA Selina Robinson, whose riding includes the Riverview site, said she intends to file freedom of information requests to get more specifics on the vision.

She said she’s disappointed with the BC Liberal government’s approach to mental health programs for youth. A select standing committee on children and youth has yet to come out with its long-awaited report, she said.

“I feel this is being done very piecemeal,” Robinson said. “They’re announcing a few beds here, some beds there. There’s no overall vision for the youth. Everything they’re doing seems to be a one-off.”

Robinson also speculated the announcement was made this week as Premier Christy Clark is due to set a date for the byelection in the neighbouring riding of Coquitlam-Burke Mountain.

But BC Liberal MLA Linda Reimer told The Tri-City News the vision comes as the province is close to ending its lease for Willingdon.

Victoria sold the 16 hectares to the Musqueam and Tsleil-Waututh nations for $57.9 million and, last year, they teamed up with the Aquilini Investment Group to develop the site.

• The deadline to comment on Vision for Renewing Riverview Lands is Jan. 29. Go online to to share your feedback.