Haida Gwaii needs new ideas: forum

  • Nov. 7, 2014 8:00 p.m.

Islanders from all communities gathered at the Kaay Centre Saturday for a full day of discussion about the economic future of Haida Gwaii.Organized by the Gwaii Trust Society, the economic development forum gave islanders the opportunity to work together and share ideas – and to hear from another remote community that has created its own economic success story.Gwaii Trust director Berry Wijdeven told those attending that Haida Gwaii has seen huge events over the past 10 years, including the Islands Spirit Rising protest, a dramatic reduction in the annual allowable cut, and a name change.These events have had lots of positive impacts, he said, but the islands have not emerged unscathed.”In 2001, the school district had 1,011 students. This year there are 570,” he said. “We need to reverse this trend, keep people on island, attract people back home.”The forum, he continued, would be a place to talk about possibilities.”We live in an amazing place which can provide us with a quality of life second to none,” he said. “Let’s put our mind to this, let’s get some amazing things done.”Islanders then heard from Pauline Frost and Ron Daub of the Vuntut Development Corporation, and their partner Ben Ryan of Air North. The Vuntut Development Corporation is based in Old Crow in the Yukon, population 260.Ms. Frost, president of the Vuntut Development Corporation, said her community is a self-governing First Nation with complete control and jurisdiction over its land and waters, including the subsurface rights. The community owns an investment fund much like the Gwaii Trust. Many years ago, the community started a conversation about what it wanted to do, she said, and this led to an investment and partnership with Air North. Old Crow is isolated and can only be reached by air, so the airline plays a particularly important role in the lives of residents, Ms. Frost said, and the investment made a lot of sense. The partnership with Air North allowed the VDC to own part of the airline business, without having to actually run the airline.The Air North investment was just the first of many partnerships that the VDC has pursued, including a small construction company and an eco-tourism company. All have created jobs and opportunities for Old Crow residents.In fact, Air North has expanded its operations to include ground handling at the Vancouver International Airport, with 225 employees there.Air North’s Ben Ryan said the partnership with Vuntut has created opportunities for both parties. As well as ground handling, Air North has gotten into the aircraft leasing business and the fuel business, he said. New ideas keep coming – the company is now looking into whether it would make sense to start barging fuel to various spots in the Pacific northwest, perhaps including Haida Gwaii.But the best thing about working with VDC, he said, has been hearing from Old Crow residents about how the business has had positive impacts on their lives. He was in the community just a few months ago for the annual general meeting.”It’s not just about business, it’s not just about profit,” he said – it’s also about witnessing a small community’s growth and success. “It’s a fulfilling thing to be a part of.”After hearing from the Yukon trio, islanders broke into smaller groups to talk about opportunities, then spent the afternoon coming up with themes and actions.At the end of the day, representatives from each of the smaller groups shared their top ideas with the whole forum. Many of the ideas focused on the need for local training and mentoring, the need for better internet service, and the need for more cooperation and partnerships on island. Inspired by the Air North story, the transportation group suggested that the islands need to have local control of the ferry service and of an airline.Mr. Wijdeven said the Gwaii Trust will be taking all the ideas produced at the forum and creating a report that should get some ideas rolling.

Just Posted

This week in photos | The spirit of giving comes to Haida Gwaii

Masset Lions Telethon, Queen Charlotte’s annual craft fair, Fields store coming along in Skidegate

Snowfall warning continues for parts of B.C.’s Interior

First significant snowfall of the season prompts Environment Canada warning

Northwest B.C. wildlife shelter rescues particularly tiny bear cub

Shelter co-founder says the cub weighs less than a third of what it should at this time of year

Masset residents receiving extra incentive to get home safe this holiday season

Masset RCMP, B.C. Liquor Store and local elementary schools team up to curb drinking and driving

Former Burns Lake mayor gets two years for sexual assaults against minors

Banned from taking work involving young people for five years

VIDEO: SNL skewers Trudeau’s mockery of Trump in high school cafeteria sketch

The three world leaders won’t let Trump sit at the cool kids’ table

B.C. universities post $340 million worth of surpluses thanks to international student tuition

Students call for spending as international enrolment produces huge surpluses at many universities

Conservatives urge Morneau to deliver ‘urgent’ fall economic update

Morneau says the first thing the Liberals plan to do is bring in their promised tax cut for the middle class

INFOGRAPHIC: How much money did your local university or college make last year?

B.C. university and colleges posted a combined $340 million surplus in 2018/19

B.C. creates $8.5M organization to improve safety for health care workers

Group will bring together unions, province, health care organizations

Kovrig clings to humour as ‘two Michaels’ near one year in Chinese prison

Their detention is widely viewed as retaliation for Canada’s arrest of Chinese high-tech scion Meng Wanzhou

B.C. VIEWS: An engine that hums right along

First Nations are leading a new surge of investment in B.C.

Brain injury from domestic abuse a ‘public health crisis,’ says B.C. researcher

Nearly 80% of the domestic violence victims who reported to police last year were women

Most Read