Wide-ranging, frank discussion at Sandspit protocol meeting

  • Jun. 6, 2008 3:00 p.m.

By Jeff King–It was a sight rare in the history of the islands-representatives from all communities sitting in one room and talking about problems that face us all. The first protocol meeting in over a year, and the first since Sandspit signed the agreement in mid-April, was held in Sandspit Thursday evening (June 5). Those attending discussed items as far-ranging as updating the protocol agreement to the more mundane, such as maintaining resource roads and helping with a tent for the music festival.”I’d like to talk about updating the protocol agreement, Area E director Travis Glasman said, adding that the original is five years old and it may be time for updating. He also said he was concerned about the potential abuse of the agreement, by using it in the courts or for private lobbying. “It’s something that should be used as a tool of the group,” he said, “Sandspit did not sign on to the protocol for it to be used by the CHN in a title case.” “I said we probably would use (the agreement) in a title case,” said CHN president Guujaaw, adding that “if we used it, it would not be used against people here, but to use (it) as a positive development that we have done.” He also said the CHN “is certainly not interested in extinguishing Haida title to these islands” but said “as for the title case, we are prepared to negotiate our way through it, that is our preferred action. But we are prepared to go to court if necessary.” Port mayor Cory Delves suggested that it would be beneficial if Skidegate and Old Massett also signed the agreement. “I believe the Protocol Agreement would be much stronger if Old Massett and Skidegate were signatories to it. I just think it would make a stronger agreement if we were truly all signatories to it. “Fine with us” said Guujaaw.He also noted that communities which have signed the agreement can get out of it if they wish. The discussion also included some talk of holding some meetings in private, in camera. “The spirit of a protocol is to develop an open process on island, CHN vice-president Arnie Bellis said, “designed to have conversations that are more public in nature.” Cory Delves said “as elected officials, we have to keep in mind we are bound by the Community Charter”, and Queen Charlotte mayor Carol Kulesha said personnel issues cannot be discussed in public, nor can issues where a group is considering acquiring property Meeting participants decided to form a committee to look at updating the agreement and considering what, if any discussions, will take place in camera.Concerning drugs and community action, Arnie Bellis updated the group on actions taken recently in Old Massett and Masset. “We’ve had public meetings, one of the things we are dealing with is the selling and use of illegal drugs,” he said.”It’s causing quite a bit of trouble in our communities. We are going to have a forum in the south end of the islands,” he said, adding that the drug trade is not just restricted to Masset and Old Massett. “The bottom line is these things exist because we allow them,” he said, “we know all the dealers. It’s just a matter of having people step up”.Mr. Bellis also said the north-end group will support drug dealers if they want to change their ways, and that it’s trying to reach a justice agreement to speed-up the court process.Masset mayor Barry Pages said “I’d like to see us write to Northern Health” about the lack of social services available to help with the problem. “We brought it up with Northern health and they seemed to do very little about it,” he said. “It effects us all. It’s something that needs to be addressed,” said Skidegate councillor James Cowpar, “let’s just sit down and be proactive and lobby Northern Health.”Queen Charlotte councillor Kris Olsen said he believes in prevention, and that part of the problem is that Northern Health has dropped its sponsorship of teen centres. “We need to hit them younger, we need to focus our attention on prevention, before they become addicts, we need to really put energy into those early stages,” Mr. Olsen said. Arnie Bellis suggested an all-island symposium to discuss the problem. “We need to get a little bit more organized on-island,” he said, “this whole thing didn’t evolve overnight, we can’t fix it overnight. We have to stick with it.” He agreed to do some work to get the symposium going.On land use planning, Guujaaw said that, with the agreement signed, “it’s into implementing, the next two years, there are management plans to be built”. He raised the issue of the lack of sewage treatment facilities in Queen Charlotte. “Skidegate and Masset’s sewage treatment are finally functioning now. That leaves only Queen Charlotte, the only one sending the stuff into the inlet,” he said, “Their problem is our problem.” That prompted QC mayor Kulesha to say “we have to finish with the water first, maybe you can help us find funding.”On economic development, Cory Delves said the new Misty Islands Economic Development Society soon will be up and running. He expects to announce the name of the new administrator, possibly this week, and said the society has “some good funding to get started with.” “Now comes the part of finding what we can do together,” said Ms Kulesha, while Kris Olsen spoke in favour of creating local jobs. “Every job you create with local people is far better than bringing people from off-island,” he said.Guujaaw said “forest tenures-that’s where we expect to be, we’ve had some initial discussion in the communities, hopefully we will make that more concrete in the next couple of months.” “We actually have a good plan cooking up,” he said. The group also discussed the state of the Queen Charlotte Main, between Charlotte and Port, and the loop road from Sandspit to Moresby Camp and back through Copper Bay., noting that there are important both for tourism as well as for emergency use. BC ferries was also on group members’ minds. Travis Glasman said fares were increasing and that islanders might want to follow the lead of some Gulf Islands residents, who board ferries and ride without paying, some in outlandish costumes, to make their point. “We don’t have to do stuff like that,” said Guujaaw, “because we are able to work together, if we tell the minister we want a meeting, we will get that meeting.” “We can easily figure out this without the old-fashioned blockades,” he said.Other issues discussed were emergency communications, upgrading Tow Hill Road, a regional chamber of commerce, road paving and working on getting a large tent on-island so groups such as the music festival don’t have to rent one off island every year.Sandspit residents attending had several questions and comments, from the state of the highway to fighting the drug problem. Sandspit’s Gail Hoss had the last word. She said she was happy to see a group from all communities meeting. “I applaud you. It can go anywhere from here,” she said.