By Heather Ramsay-“We need to come out of this shoulder to shoulder. We are by ourselves over here,” was the rallying cry at a hastily-gathered meeting in Sandspit Monday night (April 4).
More than 100 Sandspit residents turned up to grapple with how that community could support the two-week old Island Spirit Rising Action on Graham Island.
Most could agree their community has been the hardest hit by changes in the forest industry. They, like other islanders, would like to see changes made, including more community control of the forests, more local jobs and less high grading. But finding a consensus on how to bring about this change was more elusive.
Travis Glasman, a professional forester who works with the Council of Haida Nation’s Forest Guardians program, organized the meeting. He presented a document outlining a vision for “the future where Sandspit thrives as part of the Islands Community” and “where resource management is done in a manner that respects the land and the people who make a life here.”
Mr. Glasman said the paper was only a starting point and he hoped the community could work together to come up with a position. He then opened the floor to comments.
Many people spoke in support of the document, which also lists proposed demands to be made to the provincial government. Some of these include creating a community forest for all of the islands, prohibiting the current practice of leaving low grade logs in the cutblocks and acting honourably in all negotiations.
“Everything is in there that we have been trying to do for the last six years,” said Brian Charman of Willows Golf Course.
But there were many questions as well. Barry Holmes of Vancouver Island Helicopters cautioned the group to ensure any proposed demands are based on accurate details.
“We can’t do things because we heard things. We have to know them to be fact,” he said, referring to concerns over high-grading and the alleged unsustainable cut.
Others wanted to know how the community would run a large logging show, if one of the demands, amalgamating small tenures on Moresby Island, was met.
“The timber sales are out there, but the reality of the marketplace might be somewhat exciting for you,” said one community member.
Terry Berrow, a small-business operator, told the group this isn’t a unique situation, that every logger up and down the coast is hurting.
“I can’t even find a stick of wood to make a shake out of Â… I’m gonna have to buy a hot dog stand,” he said.
Warren Foster, a member of Moresby Island Management Committee, was impressed by the turnout, but wondered why the Duane Gould, the elected regional district representative wasn’t there.
“You need not to be just a radical, you need to be credible,” he said, cautioning those who would be taking the lead on this and reminding them they need the full support of the community to move ahead.
When the time came to decide how to show support on the Graham Island action, convictions in the room once again diverged.
Mr. Glasman did not come right out and suggest a blockade-style action on the Moresby Island side, but he did say he supported the choice made by people on Graham Island.
This brought reaction from the crowd, many of whom have just gotten back to work.
“Who is going to feed my kid?” “Are we going to shut down the airport and everything else or just the loggers?”
By the end of the night, others suggested Sandspit find a way to show support without protesting.
Kerri Haybittle offered to collect food and donations for those affected by the action on Graham Island. Items can be dropped at the airport or at SuperValu.
Someone suggested an information line at the ferry and still others suggested the best way to make a change is coming up next month, with the British Columbia provincial elections.
One person suggested the town move carefully and cautiously through age-old grievances with the Haida and other islanders.
In the end, the group decided it needs more time to think about how to support the north island action and to go over the proposed document.
The community will meet again on April 11 at 7 pm to discuss the matter and potentially form a committee to shape their participation in Island Spirit Rising.
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