Greater Victoria community mourns longtime Songhees leader

Robert Sam is remembered as a tireless advocate for First Nations

Songhees First Nation lost their “tireless champion,” Chief Robert Sam, on Monday.

Sam, who was 76, will be remembered as a progressive and tough negotiator who was driven to build a sustainable future for his community, Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins said at Monday night’s council meeting.

“He scared the heck out of me, but his humour was unbelievably dry and wonderful and he always had a twinkle in his eye,” she said.

“You always knew that he was going to push you to your limits and you just always knew what he was thinking … He will be sorely missed.”

Sam was a lead negotiator in treaty negotiations with the province and sat on the Association of First Nation Chiefs Committee on Treaties. He was also a Greater Victoria Harbour Authority board member.

Within Songhees, he was a driving force in developing local government bylaws, including taxation and fire protection, and successfully negotiated a local education agreement within the Greater Victoria School District.

The municipal flags in Esquimalt and Victoria were lowered to half-mast to commemorate Sam, who served as a band councillor for more than 40 years and was elected chief in 1996.

dpalmer@vicnews.com