Negotiations with province are going well, says Guujaaw

  • Aug. 12, 2005 8:00 a.m.

Islanders interested in the negotiations between the Haida and the province got a glimpse of what’s going on at a public meeting in Skidegate Tuesday August 9.
` Called by the Council of the Haida Nation, the twenty-five or so people attending heard CHN president Guujaaw describe the negotiations, which he says are going well.
“The commitment is there to see it done right. I think the province is motivated to see it work and the industry is putting out signals they are ready to work with us as well,” he said.
While open to the public, the meeting was for those who signed the protocol agreement in 2004; the CHN, Village of Port Clements and the Village of Masset. Guujaaw, Arnie Bellis, Gilbert Parnell and others represented the CHN, while Port mayor Dale Lore attended as did Masset mayor Barry Pages.
Also attending was a large delegation from Sandspit, 11 out of the 25 people in the room. CHN delegates were happy to see such a large turnout from Sandspit, but one was prompted to wonder aloud why Queen Charlotte had no official representation.
“I don’t know where the representative of Queen Charlotte is. This is serious. Â…where are you??, Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas said.
Guujaaw listed some of the areas in the April agreement with the province that have been fleshed out since. He said negotiations on several areas the Haida want protected have gone well, with few issues left to discuss. He noted two, where the final boundaries will be for protected areas around the Dover Trail and Sachs Creek watershed.
“The forest industry has agreed to cooperate and to work with us to find a way through this thing,” he said.
He also said that another land use planning process will begin in the next few weeks, “dealing with how do we create a sustainable islands economy. How can we stabilize our communities. That will be a six month process” he said.
One issue more contentious, said Guujaaw is the forest tenure promised to the Haida. The April agreement with the province pledged 120,000 cubic metres of timber annually, without specifying where it was coming from.
“The tenure issue is pretty sticky,” Guujaaw said, “Â…because of the diminished source of available wood. Another process, over the next five or six months, the chief forester (of BC) will try to determine what is a sustainable harvest level for these islands.”
And he downplayed, when asked by Marcie Mathers of Sandspit, island governance.
“What we are doing is a pretty clear step in determining what is going to happen on this land, and it could involve into some kind of governance,” Guujaaw said, “but we are not going to push it any faster that it needs to. There are things we can work together on now.”
One issue the Sandspit delegation brought to the table was its interest in signing a protocol agreement similar to the one signed last year.
Sandspit had worked hard on an agreement draft when the idea was first presented more than three years ago, the meeting heard, and Carole Bowler of Sandspit said the finished agreement that was signed by the CHN, Masset and Port “was almost identical to the one we had been working on for months.”
A sore point with Sandspit was that it had submitted a draft version to the CHN in April 2002, but as yet has never received a response. “Sandspit was the leader in looking at this document and sending it back,” Gord Usher of the Moresby Island Management Committee said.
The three-year old document was faxed to the CHN Tuesday, and Guujaaw looked it over and said “I can’t see a problem with it. I had some concerns thenÂ…we’ll look at it again and get a response back to you.” And Mr. Usher, when asked if Sandspit were now prepared to sign, said “we’d have to go back to the community for ratification. After three years, that’s only reasonable.”
The CHN’s Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas called the protocol process “unique in terms of the world, of a post-colonial model. The process of establishing an organic process based on trust and working togetherÂ…It really depends on you people individually, on your commitment to work together,” while earlier Arnie Bellis had said “we are all in this together. We are still in it together.”
Another protocol meeting, open to the public, is scheduled in early November in Port Clements, unless agreements with the province require one before.