By Heather Ramsay-Queen Charlotte will become the fourth island community to sign the protocol agreement with the Council of the Haida Nation.
Council voted Monday night (Sept. 18) to sign the agreement, although it has not yet determined a date for the signing. Mayor Carol Kulesha said council will hold a ceremony and make sure all appropriate dignitaries are available.
At the meeting, she said council carefully considered the implications of signing the agreement thanks to many thoughtful comments from the public.
By far the greatest concern was article 1.4 in the document, she said. This article recognizes the co-existence of crown and Haida aboriginal title and accepts the offer to participate in conciliation talks.
In submissions to council, people pointed out that while words like "sustainability", "conciliate" and "harmony" are defined in the agreement, the definition of Haida aboriginal title is absent.
Some citizens at the meeting suggested the community could be shooting itself in the foot, depending on the court's definition of Haida aboriginal title.
Ms Kulesha said aboriginal rights and title are already recognized by the province of BC and the definition of Haida aboriginal title will be determined whether Queen Charlotte signs the agreement or not.
"Though there are opinions as to the meaning and consequences of Haida aboriginal title, council understands that the Supreme Court of Canada will determine the definition," she said.
She added that the protocol agreement is not a legally binding agreement on either party.
"Nevertheless, signing the protocol agreement is morally binding and therefore has power in its declaration for participation in a meaningful relationship with the Council of the Haida Nation and its fellow communities," she said.
She repeated others' comments that there is a need for an all-island dialogue and governance structure that will work well in the future no matter what the court decides.
One resident of Queen Charlotte, who is also a Haida citizen, spoke of the importance of having locally elected representatives involved in future processes.
"I want our community of Queen Charlotte to be fully participating in everything that happens on this island," she said. "I would like to see our mayor sitting at those tables."
A community consultation process was held from July to September. During that time, council received 58 responses by e-mail, petition, letter or phone. As well, 55 people attended open houses and town hall meetings.
After the meeting, Ms Kulesha said she was happy to see how comfortable people were discussing the issues.
"We're living the protocol in terms of the fact that Haida people live and own land in Queen Charlotte, and non-Haida live in Skidegate," she said. Not only that, but the two communities have plans to do projects together and support one another on various topics.