‘Let’s get on with it’, islanders tell open house team

  • Wed Aug 22nd, 2007 9:00am
  • News

By Alex Rinfret-Sign it and let’s get on with it. That’s the opinion of most islanders who attended open houses last week on the draft land use agreement between the Council of the Haida Nation and the province, says CHN vice-president Arnie Bellis. Mr. Bellis, who attended all six of the open houses, said about 160 people turned out to ask questions and express opinions about the land use agreement. The biggest turnout was in Queen Charlotte. “Overall, I would say that 98-99 percent of people said ‘Sign it and let’s get on with it’,” Mr. Bellis said. “Of course, we had people with some concerns, that’s to be expected.” The draft agreement creates substantial new protected areas on Haida Gwaii and reduces the amount of timber that can be cut here. John Bones, the assistant deputy minister in the Ministry of Lands, was on the islands for four of the six open houses. He said the turnout was good, with an interesting mix of comments. “We got a lot of different views,” he said, with islanders making written comments and verbal ones. As expected, people in Sandspit and Port Clements expressed more concern about changes to timber harvesting, while people in Old Massett were concerned that the agreement did not reflect everything the Haida Nation was looking for, he said. Some people wanted to see more employment for islands residents rather than off-islanders, some wanted to ensure more local access to the wood supply, and some were concerned about public access to the new protected areas. Overall, “we got a lot of comments from people saying, ‘Let’s get on with it’,” Mr. Bones said. Staff are now compiling all the comments into a report which will be given to the Haida Nation and to the Ministry of Lands, he said. The two parties are meeting this week to continue negotiations on the draft land use agreement, he said. Meanwhile, the ministry is inviting the non-native community leaders from the islands (the mayors of Masset, Port Clements and Queen Charlotte and the directors of regional district areas D and E) to a meeting in Victoria in early September with a consultant. The purpose of the meeting is to see if the leaders can come up with a common perspective on the recommendations in the draft community viability study done earlier this year, Mr. Bones said. The ministry will bring that result to a discussion with the Haida Nation to be held the following week. Minister Bell is hoping to bring the agreement to cabinet around the end of September, Mr. Bones said.