By Alex Rinfret–Port Clements council has rejected a request from its economic development committee to reconsider the protocol agreement with the Council of the Haida Nation.
Instead, mayor Cory Delves said he wants to make the protocol agreement work, and that although he continues to have questions, he has seen encouraging signs recently.
The request from the economic development committee was discussed at Monday night’s council meeting (May 15). A letter from the committee simply said it had made a motion to ask council to revisit the agreement.
Council members voted to “postpone action indefinitely” on the letter, and to inform the economic development committee of that decision.
Several members of the economic development committee and the public attended the meeting.
“I truly believe the best thing to do is to make this protocol agreement work rather than cause more animosity,” Mr. Delves said. “Our past council signed it, we’d like to be the council that makes it work.”
Port Clements and Masset signed the protocol agreement with the CHN two years ago, and rural Graham Island signed this year. Although the CHN offered the agreement to all the non-Haida communities, so far Sandspit and Queen Charlotte have not signed. The four-page agreement commits the parties to working together for a sustainable future for the islands. It also recognizes the co-existence of aboriginal and crown title, which has been a sticking point for some.
Mr. Delves said there are many rumours in Port about the negotiations currently underway between the CHN and the provincial government, and said he has e-mailed provincial representative Jose Villa-Arce, asking him to hold a public meeting in Port, like the one held in Sandspit last month.
“There’s a lot of rumours on the street, there are a lot of unanswered questions,” he said. “I think it’s well past time the government shared some of its actions.”
Council’s decision on the protocol agreement did not sit well with one member of the public at the meeting. Jack Miller, who lives just outside Port, told council that he was the person who suggested to the economic development committee that Port revisit the agreement, and that he has serious concerns about it.
The CHN is a powerful group and its interests are not the same as Port’s, he said.
“I haven’t seen anything yet where the Haida have backed down,” he said. “I don’t know where the non-Haida have ever come out ahead… We cooperate and cooperate and cooperate and we’ve got no bargaining chips.”
Mr. Miller said the protocol agreement didn’t help Port when the Haida blockaded Tree Farm Licence 39 last year, paralyzing the little town’s economy.
Mr. Delves told Mr. Miller he understands the concerns, but urged him to be patient. The recently-formed economic viability steering committee, which Mr. Delves is part of and which includes representatives from all islands communities, shows much promise, he said.
“I ask that you give this group that is really just getting its feet wet a chance… There’s a lot of common items between all communities, native and non-native,” Mr. Delves said. “I’m very optimistic that there’s going to be positive things come out of it.”
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