The door is open to Sandspit: CHN V-P Bellis

  • Mar. 24, 2008 6:00 p.m.

By Alex Rinfret–Sandspit is welcome to join the rest of the islands communities and sign the protocol agreement with the Council of the Haida Nation at any time, says CHN vice-president Arnie Bellis. Mr. Bellis said the CHN was interested to learn that a majority of Sandspit residents have put their names to a petition calling on their representative, regional district director Travis Glasman, to sign the protocol agreement. “The CHN’s position always has been that the door is open to Sandspit and to Travis Glasman as area director,” Mr. Bellis said. “The door has always been open but we’re not interested in pressing people into things they’re not comfortable with.” Petition organizer Nance Robbins sent a copy of the petition to the Haida Nation after collecting the signatures of 179 Sandspit residents who want their town to sign a protocol agreement similar to the one signed by the village of Queen Charlotte and the CHN in 2006. Ms Robbins estimates there are 281 adult residents of Sandspit, so the 179 signatures represents 64 percent of the community. Some residents were away during the weeks she was out collecting signatures, so support may be higher. Mr. Bellis said that speaking on his own behalf, he was impressed with the work done by Ms Robbins. “I commend her for taking it on and doing it and taking the time and effort to move her opinion forward,” he said. “If a lot of folks on this island would step up, take the time and effort she did, that would be great.” Mr. Bellis said he will be trying to set up a meeting with Sandspit representatives in the near future to discuss the situation. Meanwhile, the Moresby Island Management Committee – an elected group set up to advise the regional district director – put a news story about the petition and an ad announcing the petition results on the agenda for its March 12 meeting, but did not discuss the items. Instead, members voted to “receive and file” the story and ad when they came up. Committee member Carole Bowler suggested that the committee hold a public meeting to let people know why Sandspit has not signed the protocol agreement, but the committee did not make any plans to do so. Chair Gail Henry told the Observer that it is difficult to respond to the petition because Ms Robbins did not send a copy to the management committee. Ms Henry also said the management committee has sent the Haida Nation other versions of agreements it would be willing to sign, but has never received a response. “I know that our office has sent them our response three times,” Ms Henry said. “We’ve offered to go to Graham Island and meet with them and discuss it… We’re not opposed to signing an agreement with the Haida. We’re more than happy to sign an agreement to work together with all the communities.” Ms Henry did say a sticking point for the Sandspit representatives who considered the protocol agreement written up by the CHN is its reference to the existence of Haida aboriginal title on the islands. They feel that it is up to the provincial and federal governments to determine and settle the title issue, she said. Ms Henry said the best way to figure out what the community wants might be to hold a referendum in conjunction with the municipal elections this November. She said she will bring this idea forward at the next management committee meeting (April 9). Mr. Bellis said the CHN has not responded to letters from the management committee on the protocol agreement issue because the committee is simply an advisory group to the regional district, and that it communicates with the highest-ranking local politician, regional district director Travis Glasman. The regional district sought a legal opinion on the protocol agreement several years ago and gave Area D director Ian Hetman the green light to sign it back in 2006. Mr. Glasman could do the same thing. Mr. Bellis also said the management committee may be out of step with its constituents when it suggests that Sandspit should sign a different agreement with the CHN. The people who signed the petition supported a protocol agreement like the one signed between Queen Charlotte and the CHN. “A majority of the community are saying sign it, and sign the Queen Charlotte version of it,” Mr. Bellis said. Mr. Glasman did not return phone calls from the Observer.

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