The province’s chief treaty negotiator is on the islands until Friday, meeting with municipal and other officials to explain the land offer the province just made to the Haida.
In a surprise move Wednesday afternoon, the province announced it’s offering the Haida Nation 200,000 hectares of provincial Crown land on the islands, with one big string attached-the Haida must get back to the bargaining table and restart treaty negotiations with BC and the federal government, broken off eight years ago.
“We decided that we needed to do something significant because we have to find a way to find some kind of reconciliation between the province and the Haida,” Doug Caul, the BC’s chief treaty negotiator told the Observer. Mr. Caul and other officials had just made the offer to representatives of the Council of the Haida Nation and the two band councils at a meeting in Skidegate.
Much of the land on offer has previously been identified by the Haida as having cultural significance and economic value. It includes the Duu Guusd Haida Tribal Park on northwest Graham Island, as well as Langara Island. Other parcels include a coastal strip from Naden Harbour to well south of Yan, an area on Kumdis Island, much of the Tlell River watershed and much of the Yakoun watershed including Yakoun Lake, as well as several areas on Moresby Island including Security Inlet to Government Creek (Jiinanga) and Gray Bay to Cumshewa Head. (See accompanying map, colour pink)
Also in the offer is some land to allow Old Massett and Skidegate to expand.
The package would provide the Haida with ownership and/or influence over about 20 percent of the islands. It’s just part of what is-or recently has been-on the table for the Haida. Last spring, the Ministry of Forests offered the Haida a forest tenure of 125,000 cubic metres, as well as $1.8-million per year in revenue sharing, but that was rejected by the Haida in June. As well, the Haida currently play a significant role (along with Ottawa) in managing Gwaii Haanas-itself about 14-percent of the islands.
“When you wrap those things all up together, we think it is quite a substantial package,” Mr. Caul said, noting that the new offer along with Gwaii Haanas co-management agreement, ads up to 34-percent of the land base of the islands.
The offer has one big condition-that the Haida get back to the bargaining table and restart treaty negotiations, abandoned in 1995. Mr. Caul said it’s intended to jump start the treaty process, and the province believes negotiations are a better way to resolve differences than going through the courts, as the Haida are now doing with their land title case at the BC Supreme Court. “There are no guarantees for anybody in court. It is a costly way to go,” Mr. Caul said.
“This offer is intended to stimulate timely negotiations and create greater certainty regarding the ownership and use of the lands,Â…” BC’s Treaty Negotiations Office says, “The proposal supports government’s efforts to improve the economic climate in the region, as well as resolve issues with the Haida Nation through treaty talks rather than through the courts”.
The province has given the Haida Nation until March 3, 2004 to accept it. There is land only, no cash, involved in the offer. The offer is the largest chunk of land proferred in any of the province’s treaty talks.
The province’s land offer to the Haida Nation
The following is a complete version of background information supplied to the Observer by the Province of BC through the Treaty Negotiations Office
The treaty offer to the Haida Nation totals 200,000 hectares, including fee simple ownership of 100,000 hectares of provincial Crown land and options on a further 100,000 hectares that may include Crown land tenures, protected-area status, and co-management and/or revenue sharing arrangements. The lands offered generally include those lands identified by the Haida Nation for their cultural significance or high economic value. The largest parcel, Duu Guusd, comprising 150,000 hectares, is formally protected from development from under part 13 of the Forest Act.
The treay land package on the Queen Charlotte Islands is comprised exclusively of provincial Crown land. Other components of the offer are:
Â• provincial parks, protected areas and ecological reserves are excluded
Â• subsurface resources are excluded
Â• arrangements to respect existing Crown land tenures will be addressed through negotiations
Â• access provisions to private property, third party tenures and other Crown lands will be ensured and addressed through negotiations
If the offer is accepted and substantial progress is made in negotiations, the provincial government is prepared to formally protect the 100,000 hectares that would become fee simple, providing the Haida Nation agrees to:
Â• put its rights and title court case into abeyance
Â• participate in provincial referral processes and continue to participate in land-use planning processes
The land offer is open for six months until March 3, 2004.
The Haida Nation is currently in litigation with the province on two cases related to Aboriginal issues. One case concerns a tree farm licence that Weyerhaeuser acquired when it took over MacMillan Bloedel in 1999. The Haida Nation sought to set aside the transfr and replacement of the tree farm licence, claiming lack of consultation. The BC Court of Appeal ruled that the Province and Weyerhaeuser had a legal duty to consult and seek to accommodate the Haida Nation. The case is being appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada.