Other communities may soon sign protocol agreement

  • Nov. 16, 2005 3:00 p.m.

Other islands communities may soon follow the lead of Masset and Port Clements in signing the protocol agreement with the Council of the Haida Nation, Alex Rinfret writes.
The agreement, which Port, Masset and the CHN signed in 2004, commits the parties to working together “for the benefit and betterment of the island community”, to mutual respect, and to continuing open dialogue. It also commits the signatories to holding regular public meetings to discuss issues, meetings which are being held about every three months.
At the most recent protocol agreement meeting, held in Port Clements Nov. 8, Port mayor Dale Lore said the regional district had just received an opinion from its lawyer that the board can pass a motion giving directors the authority to sign the agreement.
Area D director Ian Hetman said he had been meeting with his constituents on the issue and that so far, the feedback has been positive.
CHN vice-president Arnie Bellis recalled that a dozen Sandspit residents had appeared at the previous meeting, held in August, although he hasn’t heard any more from them.
“We were encouraged,” he said. “They seemed quite keen on following the path of the protocol agreement.”
Mr. Bellis said it good to see the agreement being discussed in other communities as well.
He then updated the 35 or so people in the room on negotiations between the Haida Nation and the provincial government. The province had sent its newest negotiator, former cabinet minister Geoff Plant, to the islands last week. He held a meet and greet session with local politicians, then met formally with the CHN for the first time on Nov. 7.
Mr. Bellis said the two sides spent some time going over the letter of understanding they signed earlier, as well as some other documents. They also discussed the need to communicate with islanders about what’s going on.
“Geoff was mainly coming up to try and achieve clarity on the letter of understanding,” he told the table. “By and large, I thought the exercise was normal. I didn’t think it was breathtaking, to be honest with you.”
CHN president Guujaaw pointed out that Mr. Plant is the fourth negotiator that the province has sent to deal with the Haida Nation, and that the constant change has slowed down negotiations.
“It kinda makes us look bad, in a way, that we’re burning through so many negotiators,” he chuckled, adding that Mr. Plant has assured the CHN that he intends to see the process through to the end.
The protocol communities then shared information about their efforts at getting community forest tenures. Port councillor Gerry Johnson said his village has applied for a community forest, and the Ministry of Forests seems supportive.
Masset mayor Barry Pages said it’s been 11 months since his community was offered an invitation to apply for 25,000 cubic metres a year. The application process has slowed, he said, partly due to the spring blockade which prevented local Ministry of Forests staff from working in their office. Masset has also heard from the CHN with some concerns it has about the application, and needs to set up a meeting to discuss it more thoroughly.
The protocol communities also discussed electrical power during the two and a half hour meeting. With the co-generation plant in Port Clements not going ahead, Mr. Lore said BC Hydro has offered $200,000 to the islands to work on an alternative energy plan. A good source of power is essential to attract manufacturers, especially with the container port project in Prince Rupert coming into play, he said.
The representatives did vote on one motion, to set up a meeting between the small business loggers and the CHN, after hearing from logger Travis O’Brien.
“BC Timber Sales isn’t even thinking of putting any timber sales up,” he said, since the blockade, which came down in April. “Nothing’s happening, nothing’s moving and I don’t even hear that being discussed at this table.”
Randy O’Brien said BC Timber sales staff had told him that everything’s on hold because the CHN had asked to double the size of the Haida tenure, as part of the ongoing CHN-provincial negotiations.
CHN representatives said they didn’t know anything about that, and Mr. Johnson, who works for the CHN Forest Guardians, said the Guardians had approved many blocks of timber for BC Timber Sales.
Mr. Lore suggested the small business loggers and the CHN talk directly to each other to sort out the issue, and everyone at the table agreed that was a good idea.
“We’re not going to be caught in the blame game here,” Mr. Bellis said.
Cory Delves, who works for TFL 39 owner Cascadia and is a candidate for Port mayor, told the table that the major licensees had been told much the same thing by the ministry – that timber is being tied up by the ongoing negotiations.
The meeting wrapped up with some discussion about the need for goals. Dennis Reindl, a Port resident, told the table that meetings and discussions are fine, but he wondered what the group’s goal was.
“The goal is to get local tenure, to get some local manufacturing,” Mr. Lore replied.
But that didn’t satisfy Mr. Reindl. “Some, some, some – goals need to be more specific than that,” he said.
Guujaaw said the group does have clear goals.
“The clearest as far as a common goal is a sustainable economy,” he said. “And we know it’s not sustainableÂ… How we get there is where we are right now.”
While some at the table said it seems like islanders are constantly holding lengthy meetings and never achieving anything, others offered thoughts on the huge amount of change that has occurred here over the past few decades.
Reynold Russ, chief Iljuuwaas, said he could remember when Sam Simpson ran a theatre in Masset where Indians sat on one side and whites on the other side to watch John Wayne movies. He remembered when the council of New Masset told Old Massett it couldn’t buy property because Masset didn’t want to be surrounded by Indian Reserves. And he remembered when he went to speak at G.M. Dawson years ago at the invitation of the principal, and walked into a room of segregated students, Indians on one side, whites on the other. (He refused to speak.)
“I’ve seen a tremendous amount of change,” he said. “This is what working together can do, and I see it happening here. I’m glad I lived this long to experience it.”