New town will be a model for the country
A huge crowd gathered outside Masset Friday morning (July 25) to witness the opening celebration for a new community which Old Massett chief councillor Ron Brown Jr. says will be a model for the rest of Canada.
Tlaga gaw tlaas, or New Town, will eventually have 300 homes. Construction will start next month on the first 20, Mr. Brown said.
The grand opening began with a ceremonial march from the CB Island Fisheries plant south down Highway 16 to the new subdivision. Two youth bearing Haida Nation flags led the march, which also included hereditary chiefs, the Old Massett village council, representatives from Masset, Port Clements and Skidegate, RCMP, the federal Minister of Indian Affairs Robert Nault, MP Andy Burton and MLA Bill Belsey.
At the site, Marina Jones blessed the new subdivision, and master of ceremonies Leo Gagnon welcomed everyone. Mr. Brown thanked the previous councils and chief councillors – Michael Nicoll, Wilson Brown and Kim Davidson – who had worked so hard to make tlaga gaw tlaas a reality.
“We hope to have a beautiful community which will be a model for the rest of Canada,” Mr. Brown said. “About two-thirds of our people live away from here, and it will be great to see them coming back home.”
Chief Iljuwaas, Reynold Russ, welcomed all the people from other communities who attended. He then joined Robert Nault, Andy Burton, Bill Belsey, Masset mayor Barry Pages and chief councillor Ron Brown in cutting a cedar ribbon across the road into the new village. The crowd then walked through tlaga gaw tlaas, admiring the paved roads, sidewalks, housing lots with new grass and underground wiring. Mr. Nault, Chief Iljuwaas and Mr. Brown together took up shovels and dug into the ground on the first housing lot.
A seafood luncheon at the Howard Phillips community hall in Masset followed. Chief Iljuwaas said the opening had been a wonderful experience, and shared some of the history of the area where the new town will be built. Council of the Haida Nation president Guujaaw thanked the band council for bringing everyone together in a happy way, and recognized the support and cooperation received from New Masset.
Robert Nault, the Minister of Indian Affairs, said he had spent the morning meeting with the Old Massett village council and was extremely positive about their vision for their expanding community. He also praised Old Massett and Masset for working together, especially on the new regional wastewater treatment plant the two communities have proposed to share.
Mr. Nault announced $820,000 from the government of Canada for the first 20 houses at tlaga gaw tlaas, and said a further $3.5-million will probably be forthcoming for the treatment plant. Loud applause greeted his announcement.
He said he had met with many of the Haida chiefs and leaders in both Skidegate and Old Massett during his two days on the islands, and was deeply impressed.
“I think the Haida people should be very proud of the leadership they have,” he said. “The Haida people are well served and they are to be congratulated on their choice of leaders.”