CHN-BC negotiations continue

  • Jan. 27, 2006 7:00 a.m.

Islanders may soon be hearing more about the negotiations between the provincial government and the Council of the Haida Nation.
However, Jose Villa-Arce, assistant to Geoff Plant, the former attorney-general who was appointed by the province to work with the CHN, warns it will still be a long process.
“Both sides are concerned with the information vacuum,” says Mr. Villa-Arce, and to that end they are working on a communications agreement.
In the meantime, here is an update. Mr. Plant was on the islands in November and has held several conference calls with the CHN since then, Mr. Villa-Arce said. The letter of understanding signed between the two governments in April 2005 covers several complicated issues, including three CHN priorities, he said: the protected areas, a forestry consultation and accommodation protocol, and the land use planning process.
On the land-use plan, Mr. Villa-Arce said islanders who were involved in the process will be receiving a final version of the report soon. They will be given some time to respond to it, and will then be invited to a final meeting, probably next month.
“The object of the report is to reflect what happened a year ago, end that process, and go on to government-to-government negotiations,” he said.
The land use planning process came to an abrupt halt last February, just before it wrapped up its work, for a number of reasons, Mr. Villa-Arce said.
“There was a final report, but it wasn’t finalized,” he said. The new final report is to be circulated within the next few days and a public meeting will be held next month putting an end to the land use planning process and allowing it to move onto the next stage, government-to-government negotiations between the province and the CHN.
Another aspect of the Plant/CHN work will be working on a “community viability process,” he said, although no one has a firm idea of what that is.
As laid out in the original memorandum of understanding, the community viability process will address the economic future of the islands.
Mr. Villa-Arce said to be perfectly honest, “we’ve never done anything like that before in other land-use plans.”
“We’re likely going to be talking to the mayors and chiefs first,” he said. “Let’s find out what’s going onÂ… What would a community viability process look like?”
This process, which he expects to be designed on the islands, will happen in parallel with the government-to-government negotiations, so one informs the other.
As for protected areas, the government and the Haida have been going back and forth on cultural cedar and archaeological areas protected by government action regulation for a 90-day period under the original MOU. This period expired in the fall and Mr. Villa-Arce says the Haida have come forward with different areas to replace some of these.
Mr. Plant will be recommending to government that “Part 13” of the Forest Act be used instead of the more limited GARs. The Part 13 designation would be for a one year period, he said, in which time a final designation would be made through the land use plan.
Another topic that has been volleyed back and forth between the parties is the Haida tenure. The original MOU offered a 120,000 m3 volume in an area-based tenure.
Mr. Villa-Arce says the two parties have a difference of opinion on how to calculate the size of the area, but they are working on it.
He expects the government-to-government process to wrap up by June.
“The objective is to get agreement with reasonable, but aggressive timelines,” he said.
Mr. Villa-Arce is on the islands this week.