Another council meeting on Haida Gwaii, another mid-term resignation.
The unexpected departure of Devin Rachar from the Village of Queen Charlotte council was announced at the regular meeting on July 20, making Rachar the third councillor on the island to resign in three weeks.
The motion to remove him as a signing authority on behalf of the village at the Northern Savings Credit Union — a late addition to the agenda — was moved by Councillor Jesse Embree and seconded by Councillor Lisa Pineault. This became a recurring theme throughout the meeting since Embree and Pineault are the only two councillors remaining until there is a by-election.
Quorum for the council is three, which they are still able to establish with Mayor Kris Olsen.
The Observer was not able to reach Rachar for comment on his decision to leave, though during the Monday meeting, Pineault said losing him and former councillor Richard Decembrini, whose resignation was announced at the previous regular meeting on July 6, was “a direct impact of what [they’ve] been trying to work through as a group.”
“For us as a council we have to respect the laws that we’re governed by … but also try to respect our neighbours and their wishes,” she said.
“It has been difficult. It’s created a lot of problems within our group. As you can see, we are down two less councillors.
“It’s a direct impact of what we’ve been trying to work through as a group and it’s unfortunate. It’s unfortunate that it’s created problems with other communities that we are neighbours with and hard feelings.
“We have relationships that we will try to mend and try to move forward with knowledge. We have to have knowledge to know what we’re able to do or not.”
Pineault’s comments came in response to a member of the public, Duncan White, who asked questions regarding an in camera report from the previous council meeting that was included in the July 20 agenda. The item being released to the public was that council approved a letter to be sent to Council of the Haida Nation (CHN) President Gaagwiis Jason Alsop, informing him that, effective immediately, they had decided to withdraw from the essential work permit process included in ongoing CHN state of emergency measures. The letter, based on legal advice reviewed by the village, said the decision was made due to liability concerns.
“The Village of Queen Charlotte has recently reviewed legal opinion regarding the issuance of essential work permits which identifies that, in the absence of provincial approval, we do not have the authority to participate in island-wide processes that aim to restrict or otherwise enforce travel restrictions,” the letter said.
“The process was helpful in the early stages of the pandemic response, however, the fact that it does not align with the current phase of B.C.’s restart plan now poses a liability risk to the community. As a result, the Village of Queen Charlotte council has made the decision to withdraw from that process, effective immediate, to protect the interests of the village and our taxpayers.”
Later in the meeting, Pineault said she enjoyed getting to know Rachar while he was on council and appreciated his thoughtfulness.
“He definitely was a ‘questioner’ … he was just a source of information,” she said, encouraging community members to step up during the coming by-election. “It’s unfortunate for us that we’ve lost yet another councillor in a short period of time.”
Olsen echoed what he said after Decembrini resigned, describing how demanding and stressful their workloads have become during the pandemic, and adding that Rachar provided a “clear and concise point of view” during his time on council.
“These are difficult and challenging times, and require a huge amount of our time and attention,” Olsen said, remarking on the number of meetings council members have had to attend since the onset of COVID-19.
Embree said he admired Rachar’s candor and that he would be missed.
“Him running in a by-election partly encouraged myself to run, seeing a younger member of the community step forward to take that on,” he said.
At the July 6 meeting, deputy clerk Sandra Brown said that as soon as the village appoints a chief election officer, they will have 80 days to hold a by-election on a Saturday. The officer will be appointed by a council resolution at a future meeting.
Rachar is also the climate action coordinator for the Skidegate Band Council, according to the band’s website.
On July 16, the Village of Port Clements shared a public notice that former councillor Teri Kish had resigned.
Kish is also the director of the Old Massett emergency operations centre.
More to come.
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