Haida Gwaiians finally have a regional government with a name that reflects where they live.
As of Sept. 19, islanders living in rural areas and municipalities are now represented by the North Coast Regional District — the new name for the former Skeena-Queen Charlotte Regional District.
The change was sparked by the 2010 return of the name “Queen Charlotte Islands” to the B.C. government by the Haida Nation.
Barry Pages, chair of the North Coast Regional District, said it took time and consultation, but the new name is more reflective of the area.
“All in all, it was a good process,” said Pages, noting that over the past year, the district spoke with area municipalities, First Nations, and regional district agencies about the change.
“We already had a name that reflected our area — the North Coast — which really isn’t that controversial,” he said.
“So in the consultative process, there were no negative comments that came back. They were all positive or neutral.”
In June, the regional district was approved for a $12,571 grant from the Northern Development Initiative Trust to help it market the new name.
Regional district directors first voted in favour of the “North Coast” name back in October 2011, but the legal process to make it official only got underway last November.
Such changes are rare in B.C., and there is little protocol on how to do it.
While B.C.’s Local Government Act does allow for name changes, it doesn’t include any guidelines. At one point, staff at the regional district were told the province typically rejects such proposals.
To make it official, the regional district had to form a name-change committee, propose their own process, then have it reviewed by B.C.’s Ministry of Community.
The process involved months of public consultation done through meetings with other community leaders, a public ‘opt-out’ vote, plus final approval by the B.C. cabinet.
Called “alternative approval,” the opt-out vote is a cheaper way for local governments to resolve a public question than putting it to a stand-alone referendum.
In this case, if over 10 per cent of electors had written in to reject the name “North Coast Regional District,” the name change would have stopped.
But after hearing from residents, other local governments and First Nations, directors found broad support for the switch.
Founded in 1967, the North Coast Regional District represents 19,000 people living on Haida Gwaii and the mainland North Coast. It includes municipal directors from Prince Rupert, Port Edward, Queen Charlotte, Port Clements and Masset, and is the only local government that represents rural residents in Graham Island, Sandspit, Dodge Cove and Oona River.
A quick Google search of “NCRD” finds the regional district may be in for a boost in web traffic once the new site is up — in Pakistan, “NCRD” is used by the National Centre for Rural Development, while in Sudbury, Ontario, NCRD refers to the Nickel City Roller Derby.