The White Rock Museum and Archives and the City of White Rock are to host a private apology ceremony this evening after the museum lost a number of artifacts the Semiahmoo First Nation entrusted to them for safe-keeping.
Mayor Darryl Walker, Semiahmoo First Nation Chief Harley Chappell, and a representative from the museum were unavailable for comment Thursday afternoon, but the city’s communication manager sent Peace Arch News comments from the mayor on his behalf.
“The White Rock Museum and Archives and the City of White Rock are apologizing tonight for an incident that took place in the 1990s. This is being done privately and in a way that honours the Semiahmoo First Nation,” Walker’s emailed statement said.
Contacted by PAN Thursday afternoon, Coun. Helen Fathers said that in the ’90s, the museum agreed to hold a number of artifacts for Semiahmoo First Nation while the band renovated its church.
The museum didn’t have the ability to store the artifacts, so it passed them on to Centennial Arena for storage. The artifacts, Fathers said, were items like benches and pews, “and things (that) were important to Semiahmoo First Nation.”
Fathers, who said the city is not casting blame on one individual for the “terrible, terrible mistake,” said that the fire department at the time ordered that the artifacts be removed from Centennial Arena because they were a fire hazard.
That is when the items disappeared.
“So what happened is, there wasn’t a very good relationship, obviously, between the museum and the Semiahmoo First Nation because they were upset about it, with all good reasons,” Fathers said.
“It came to the city’s attention and we decided to try and help the partners reconcile.”
Fathers said the museum received a grant from the provincial government to host the apology event.
“And so that’s what’s going on tonight,” Fathers said.