The Land Use Planning Forum members learned about mining interests, old growth forest and the Haida Constitution during their March 12/13 meeting in Queen Charlotte.
Arnie Bellis and April Churchill of the Council of the Haida Nation began with the background of the constitution.
“We never had a written constitution, but that’s not to say the Haida didn’t have government,” said Mr. Bellis. The Haida governed themselves with a system of clans, alliances and strict rules of diplomacy. The Haida were bound by treaties and marriages added Ms Churchill. “We were different groups, but always one nation,” she said.
However, in the 70s and 80s the Council of the Haida Nation began to debate and create a written constitution. “Like any other nation, we had disputes within ourselves, but we had the ability to resolve things,” said Mr. Bellis who was part of the process.
Mr. Bellis then drew the forum’s attention to section 8 of the constitution where some important principles are written, especially A8S5 “CHN shall promote a peaceful co-existence with other people and governments without compromise to the objectives of the Haida Nation” and A8S6 “CHN shall establish land and resource policies consistent with nature’s ability to produce. The Polices will be applicable to all users of the Territories.”
“After Lyell Island, the islands polarized, but things have come together,” said Mr. Bellis. He emphasized the Haida community’s commitment to working collaboratively with other islanders in an environmentally responsible manner for the well being of everyone. “We have to take care of the future,” he said.
After Mr. Bellis and Ms Churchill’s presentation, the forum’s two mining representatives spoke.
Bob Patterson of the BC/Yukon Chamber of Mines and the Mining Association of BC began with an overview of the present and potential management of mining on the islands. The biggest challenge when managing mineral interests is that they are so unpredictable. Prospecting has very little environmental impact, but requires a large area to explore. Mines themselves have a high impact on a small space. The islands have very high potential for mineral and coal as well as oil and gas.
Tim Boyko represents Haida mining interests at the table. He spoke chiefly about argillite at Slatechuck Mountain. He described the low impact, labour intensive mining methods of the Haida.
Finally, Leah Malkinson of the process team presented information about old growth forests on behalf of the technical team.
60-percent of the islands are old growth forest 250 years or older, but only 28-percent is classified as tall old growth. The forest is managed with the forest practices code. The forum can make recommendations about things like the annual allowable cut that will influence the chief forester’s decisions, provided the recommendations are endorsed by both the Haida Nation and the province, says process co-chair Carol Kulesha.
The forum also took care of some housekeeping issues. They welcomed Dwight Welwood (non-timber forest products) to the table as a replacement for Graham Evenson. They also agreed to extend their monthly meetings to include Thursday evenings to make sure they have adequate time for decisions.
Up until now, the forum members have been informing themselves about the issues they must decide on. At the next meeting the forum will begin negotiating an agreement with help from facilitator Stuart Gale.
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