Haida Nation and BC unveil new decision-making process

  • Sep. 26, 2011 7:00 a.m.

By Heather Ramsay-An innovative joint decision-making process means decisions about the islands’ natural resources will no longer be made unilaterally by the province. “It’s very exciting,” said Haida Nation vice-president April Churchill at the outset of an open house held in Old Massett on Sept. 19 with those involved in the implementation of shared decision-making structures in the Kunst’aa guu Kunst’aayah Reconciliation Protocol. “It’s the first time Haida people have been in upper level strategic planning at the ministerial level.” Not only will decisions about natural resource applications, such as quarries, forest licenses, mining and more be made by representatives from both the province and the Haida Nation, but higher level decisions such as the islands’ annual allowable cut and land use plan objectives will also be made through this process. The key entities in the Reconciliation Protocol are the reconciliation table, the Haida Gwaii management council, the solutions table and the decision makers. The reconciliation table has the job of furthering government-to-government relationships and refining the shared and joint decision-making processes. The body includes the chief negotiator for the province and the Haida. The table has also includes the federal government as work towards a trilateral reconciliation agreement continues. The Haida Gwaii management council is a statutory decision-making body made up of two representatives of the Haida and two from the province. The council’s first decision is to set the allowable annual cut for the islands, said Allan Davidson, one of the Haida representatives on the council. With such a new body, many of the first meetings were about getting organized and ensuring all participants are aware of the laws of the province and the Haida. Derek Thompson, a retired civil servant who now teaches at Royal Roads University, is the neutral chair of the management council. “The key is the decision-making power. Things won’t have to go to a minister,” said Mr. Thompson. His role as neutral chair is to break the tie if the four members can not come to consensus. “There must be a decision. There can’t just be a stand-off. There won’t be years of things not being resolved,” he said. He said the group is tightly constrained to work on strategic planning items like land use objectives, the annual cut, protected area management plans and policies and standards for conservation of heritage sites, but they also have a duty to evaluate effectiveness of solutions table. The solutions table, chaired by Colin Richardson, is made up of two Haida representatives and two provincial staffers. This table deals with natural resource applications like forest licenses, crown land sales, wood lots and more. The members of this table provide recommendations to the decision makers from the province and the Haida Nation. The Haida natural resource committee is the decision maker on the Haida side and on the provincial side the statutory decision maker changes depending on the decision to be made. CHN table representative Nick Reynolds says the table’s goal is to provide the decision maker with a brief within 7 to 14 days. The foundation of the agreement is the strong relationship between the CHN and provincial table members. Ms Churchill thanked provincial staffers Lindsey Jones and John Bones, who have worked on this file for a long time. She described them as people with vision who could hear both provincial and Haida positions and translate them so that both parties could work together. Frank Brown, director of land and marine stewardship with the Great Bear Initiative, was also at the open house. He’s from Bella Bella and along the central coast a similar reconciliation protocol is getting underway. He said all coastal first nations have common interests around stewardship and supporting each other in this new work. Municipal government representatives attended from Port Clements and Queen Charlotte. “We want to demonstrate that we are keen on the process,” said Queen Charlotte councillor Greg Martin. The municipalities have been invited to observe tripartite meetings of Canada, CHN and province. “It’s an important process that involves the future of the islands and the shape of things to come,” he said. As well, the management plans for all the new protected areas were made available at the meeting. These were signed by Haida and provincial representatives in late July and early August. The plans lay out acceptable uses and strategic directions.

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