An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.
PARKING AT THOMPSON RIVERS UNIVERSITY is always controversial but there’s a new twist — a petition is asking that all indigenous students park there for free.
The online petition initiated by student Nicole ‘Morning Star’ Peters points out that opening remarks at many events include an acknowledgement that they’re taking place on the “unceded territory of the Secwepemc Nation.”
So, she says, the children of those who have lived here for thousands of years shouldn’t have to pay to park at TRU. Basically, her unspoken rationale seems to be that indigenous people are being made to pay to park on their own land.
According to Peters in various media interviews, the reaction has been, in large part, one of indignation and outrage — “awful” as she puts it.
Parking is an amazingly emotional thing, never failing to generate lively discussion. Things can sometimes get carried away.
There’s plenty of room for outrage in a suggestion that some people should get free parking while everybody else has to pay. But, Peters has a legitimate point.
When we stand and acknowledge that we’re on somebody else’s land, is it merely a polite formality, or does it mean something? Free parking for university students would be a small but appreciated gesture.
The University of Northern B.C. in Prince George announced recently that indigenous students will receive full tuition for undergraduate degrees. That’s a serious acknowledgement.
You might say, of course, well, what next — free parking for indigenous folks all over the city? After all, the same acknowledgement about living on unceded territory is offered at pretty much every public event.
I leave that to City council, but Peters raises some valid logic that’s worthy of respectful discussion.
Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops and a retired newspaper editor. He is a regular contributor to CFJC, publishes the ArmchairMayor.ca opinion website, and is a director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.