A land use plan for the islands is achievable and could be agreed upon next year, according to Council of the Haida Nation vice-president Arnie Bellis.
There have been no discussions between the Haida and the province since early September, when CHN president Guujaaw accused Victoria’s chief negotiator of acting in bad faith, causing him to withdraw from the process. He has yet to be replaced.
But this does not mean the process is over, Mr. Bellis said.
“”Â…(it) doesn’t mean we are discouraged. We are a bit concerned. I wouldn’t label it as discouraged,” he said. CHN president Guujaaw said “I expect things will move along a little smoother now,” and said he knows Pat Bell well and has a lot of respect for him.
Mr. Bellis told the Observer the CHN is assessing its position and is available for more talks, but admitted an agreement is unlikely in the next few months. However, 2007 is a reasonable target. “I would say so, for sure,” he said.
Mr. Bellis said the biggest problem is the multi-national forest industry.
“What’s stopping us from getting thereÂ…is what I cite as special interest groups and lobbies and industry with their perceived investment and investors. And those items don’t necessarily equate to something that is what we agree with, and with what some of our fellow islanders agree with,” he said. “We are dealing with some very powerful forces that have a lot of influence,” the CHN vice-president said.
Last week, Lands Minister Pat Bell told the Observer he may be convinced to impose a land use plan unilaterally, although he implied he’d prefer not to.
Mr. Bellis said it wouldn’t be wise for the province to act alone.
“At the end of the day in this area of the world, any experienced politician should know you want to have everybody on side, supporting something rather than be in total opposition”, Mr. Bellis said.
“I think both the province and ourselves have the same goals, it’s just how you get there,” he said.
The planning process, with Haida participation, started in 2002. It changed gears just over a year and a half ago when the Haida and the province started talks on issues that the public process had been unable to resolve.
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