The Gwaii Trust Society has resolved a decade-old problem by placing $12.3-million in a “Haida Parity Fund” which will be available only to Haida communities.
The decision was made at a two-day meeting in Sandspit last weekend, chair Miles Richardson said, and the decision was unanimous among the trust’s eight directors.
“I think it’s a really exciting and important decision,” Mr. Richardson told the Observer. “I’m very proud of the board that it was a unanimous decision.”
He said it took “really intense full discussion” for directors to resolve several issues before making the decision. He didn’t want to say what those concerns were.
“I’m not here to talk about the divisive issues,” he said. “We’ve tried many times in the past to resolve this issueÂ… It’s been nagging, it’s been divisive. Now, it’s resolved.”
He did explain that the Haida communities have not been happy since the inception of the Gwaii Trust in 1994 about the way the Sandspit harbour and two visitor information centres in Queen Charlotte and Sandspit were funded out of a pool of government money, and the Gwaii Trust then set up with the remainder. (The money was contributed by the federal and provincial governments as part of the agreement which created Gwaii Haanas national park. All these events were a direct result of the Haida protest at Lyell Island.)
Mr. Richardson said the parity issue has been raised repeatedly at the Gwaii Trust table, but the board has been unable to resolve it until now. The $12.3-million is based on the value of the harbour and the two visitor info centres, he said, although by some accountings the full cost of these items was closer to $18-million.
According to the decision record, the Gwaii Trust will distribute $12.3-million through the Haida Parity Program within 15 years or less. Program guidelines are being developed. As an initial allocation for this year, the Gwaii Trust is giving $600,000 to the Haida Language and Rediscovery programs.
The entire Gwaii Trust board will make decisions on applications to the Haida Parity Program, not just Haida directors, Mr. Richardson said. The program will conform to the Gwaii Trust vision and principles, just like the trust fund’s other programs.
Mr. Richardson said the decision is a good one which “really strengthens the foundation of our islands community as we go forward.”
The Gwaii Trust Society controls a fund worth more than $70-million, distributing interest earned on the core fund to projects benefiting the islands through a variety of programs. The trust has eight directors, four representing Haida communities and four representing non-Haida communities.
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