Haida, province reach agreement

  • May. 11, 2005 3:00 p.m.

There’s an agreement between the Council of the Haida Nation and the province that will likely see the end of the ‘Islands Spirit Rising’ protest, although details as we went to press Tuesday are sketchy. What we do know is as follows:

o the agreement was reached Monday (May 9).

o the amount of timber cut on the islands each year will be reduced, although the exact amount has not yet been agreed upon.

o the agreement gives the Ministry of Forests on the islands more flexibility, by giving it the power not to make approvals in culturally or ecologically sensitive areas, as well as letting the district manager veto harvest plans, something not permitted before.

As part of the agreement, which still needs to be ratified by both the Haida and the province, the Council of the Haida Nation will receive $5-million for now in revenue sharing with the province for resources taken from the islands. A more exact figure will be decided later, CHN president Guujaaw told the Observer. The Haida previously refused earlier provincial revenue-sharing agreements because there were too many conditions attached, Guujaaw said. Now, the revenue sharing will have no conditions.
Earlier, it appeared the total cut level on the islands would be reduced to 900,000 cubic meters a year, but since then industry “raised a stink” according to Guujaaw. The province and CHN have agreed to sit down and decide on a sustainable harvest level.
Fourteen Haida protected areas now have temporary protection. The province must come up with a new land designation for them, said Guujaaw, one that allows for local decisions about land use. It will be not as strict as a park or a Tree Farm Licence, he said.
In addition, the Haida are taking steps to halt the bear hunt, and the land use planning forum will be reactivated so the interests of islanders will be “more definitely a part of the design of the islands future,” the CHN president said.
The agreement takes care of the province’s obligation to accommodate Haida interests, but it is an interim measure only and doesn’t settle the title case, said Guujaaw.
Up next, the agreement, which is three pages long, will be presented to the Haida people, and following that it’s expected meetings to explain it will be held for other islanders. The Observer understands these meetings will be held very soon.
As of Tuesday afternoon, the checkpoints remained in place, both outside Port Clements and Queen Charlotte, although all traffic is being permitted to come and go, as has been the case since April 22. “We are waiting to hear about the deal with the province, until then it is business as usual,” said Bob Mills, spokesperson for Islands Spirit Rising. He says the group “will decide for itself” after consulting with the negotiating team, and it will be a consensus decision.
The CHN is also going ahead with a court action against Weyerhaeuser, “hopefully this week,” said Guujaaw. The Supreme Court of Canada said that industry also has a duty, although different from that of the crown, to behave responsibly in their handling of the land and the people, said Guujaaw. “There are legal issues between us and Weyerhaeuser,” he said. Earlier, Guujaaw told the Observer the CHN was looking for a cash award for damages from Weyerhaeuser.