Arnie Bellis, vice-president of the Council of the Haida Nation says the provincial report made public last week is flawed and could polarize the debate on land use on the islands.
The socio-economic and environmental land use assessment report says the population of the islands is 37-percent Haida, but Mr. Bellis says that is wrong.
“The 37-percent is not factual. It is based solely on on-reserve Haidas, it doesn’t touch on off-reserve Haidas,” Mr. Bellis said. He also noted that there are 90 homes in Masset alone occupied by Haida people.
“Any responsible government or leadership forums should always try to work from facts. And the facts in this report on the number counts are not viable,” Mr. Bellis said.
He said the report was commissioned during the Islands Spirit Rising blockade just over a year ago, and a snap-shot of the economy at that time cannot be accurate.
Mr. Bellis also said releasing the report, with its flaws, may have a negative impact on islands by polarizing discussion.
“I am feeling quite comfortable that people have a comfort zone in speaking their concerns and their opinions, which they have a right to,” he said. “I want to encourage that, even if it is a different opinion than mine or the nation’s. We still have to hear it and deal with it. If something that even looks like it might polarize people, then we got to talk about that.”
Mr. Bellis said he is not clear why the province went ahead with the report without Haida participation, at a time when the two were supposed to be working together, and says that if a special interest group is driving the province’s agenda, that ought to be made clear.
“That’s part of what we need to get to clarity, he said. “We can deal with whatever is going to come on the table.”
“I can’t get a clear understanding of what motivates them (to) release this thing, admittedly a flawed report,” Mr. Bellis said. “Why would any responsible government do that, that’s all.”
Bill Beldessi, CHN land use planning coordinator says one problem is that the report uses regional district census figures that are not accurate.
“When we read this thing, one big problem is they are using, to a large amount, the census of five years ago,” he said, “In the report, it talks about 150 jobs in the community of Sandspit. Well, Sandspit has never had 150 jobs in logging since I’ve been there, which is 18 years.”
He says the 150 figure likely includes workers at Sewell Inlet and Louise Islands, which were lumped into Sandspit because many had mailboxes there to qualify for the northern tax deduction.
“Does that constitute someone living even in the region? Probably not,” Mr. Beldessi said.
And then it comes to the assessment, Mr. Beldessi said. “In any land use process, there is going to be an assessment based on the before and after. So after using these fudged, inaccurate numbers, then the end result is pretty obvious. It’s going to be a devastating turn of events for Haida Gwaii, the Queen Charlotte Islands. Nothing good came out of it. And they are resisting any thoughts of fixing those things up. It’s a whole number of things and as they start cascading, you realize that the thing is so fatally flawed it shouldn’t be released,” Mr. Beldessi said.
The report was made public last week, when provincial representatives held separate meetings on the islands with the CHN, the forest industry and community leaders.
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