Gwaii Trust now worth $77-million

  • Jan. 28, 2008 2:00 p.m.

By Alex Rinfret–The market value of the Gwaii Trust has now reached $77-million, Gwaii Trust Society chair Ken Rea told the public at the group’s annual general meeting Jan. 19 in Tlell. The trust fund, which started up in 1994 with $38-million contributed by the federal government, has pumped $30-million into projects benefiting islanders over the past 13 years, Mr. Rea said. In the past year, he said, the nine-member society which manages the trust fund has achieved two goals it has been working on for many years: it completed a project to bring broadband internet to the islands, and it persuaded the federal and provincial governments to turn the $24-million South Moresby Forest Replacement Account over to a board made up of islanders. That fund is now known as the Gwaii Forest Charitable Trust. The Gwaii Trust’s growth and the benefits it has brought to the Charlottes make it an exceptional success story, said auditor Michael Johnson of McAlpine and Co. Chartered Accountants. Mr. Johnson said most Canadians are aware of examples of Ottawa spending millions of dollars on useless projects like the recent advertising scandal. It’s almost unheard-of that a $38-million government contribution could – instead of being spent – grow to $77-million, while also distributing $30-million in project funding. “It’s a situation, I think, that is unique in the country,” Mr. Johnson said. “It’s a model we should see more often.” The fund, which is invested in government and corporate bonds, mortgages, equities, and international equities, generated $7.2-million in investment income last year, slightly lower growth than it has seen in previous years. Some of this money has been reinvested in the trust fund to protect it from inflation, while the rest is available to communities, individuals and non-profit groups on the islands who submit proposals for funding. The Gwaii Trust offers several funding programs, including Major Contributions (community infrastructure), Legacy (worthwhile community projects), Culture as it Relates to Tourism, Healthy Humans, Haida Parity, Arts, and various education programs. Mr. Rea welcomed one new board member, John T. Jones of Old Massett, representing the Council of the Haida Nation. Mr. Jones is replacing Brad Setso. The other board members are: Lawrence Jones, David Crosby and Richard Russ, all representing the CHN, Ian Hetman of Graham Island North, Jim Abbott of Graham Island Central, Ron McKee of Graham Island South and Warren Foster of Sandspit. The society recently hired a new administrative assistant to work at its Skidegate office, Debbie Crosby, and is advertising for a new administrator to replace Tanu Lusignan, who resigned several months ago. Bill Mackay, a member of the public and administrator of the new GwaiiTel society, thanked board members for their hard work and vision. GwaiiTel, which manages the broadband network put in place by the Gwaii Trust, is bringing islands businesses and residents a huge step forward, he said. “Our future looks really promising,” he said. “Soon we’ll have two offices up and running with full video conferencing capability… The future is unbounded. We’re well on our way.” Mr. Mackay also spoke as president of the East Coast Graham Island Farmers Institute. Farmers on the islands have been hugely affected by new provincial meat regulations which came into force Sept. 30, he said. The new regulations mean that farmers can’t sell meat unless it has been inspected. In order to sell meat here, local producers will have to build a certified inspection facility, he said, which will cost an estimated $500,000. The government may provide up to 75 percent of this amount, he said, but the Farmers Institute may be submitting a proposal to the Gwaii Trust for the rest. The group is already looking at a location in Tlell next to the fire hall for the facility. “This is a heads-up that this process will be happening,” he said. “It’s a huge project, we see it as being of benefit island-wide.” Mr. Rea thanked Mr. Mackay and all the other members of the public who attended.