We must do better!
(See cortesisland.com June 14th for article from the Campbell River Mirror
Last week I witnessed an act of your local government that needs your Cortes response. Please read on. I am calling on you to stand up!The Context:
The Klahoose First Nation, is an autonomous government, a sovereign Nation, a distinct people who have continually to this day occupied unceded traditional lands. Klahoose has honoured all forms of non-native government by applying to all levels for the various licenses, permits and zoning required in that system to carry out their proposed marina development on the foreshore in front of their village and reserve lands. As part of this mix, Klahoose applied to the Strathcona Regional District (SRD) to rezone the foreshore to permit their proposed marina development. They have been working with the SRD in good faith, not only on this application and their previous shellfish applications, but also throughout the recent Cortes Official Community Plan process and went as far as to host the full SRD board at the Klahoose hall for the Region’s first ‘community-to-community’ forum.
We need to accommodate First Nations rights and title for many reasons, both legally and morally. Building a good rapport with all First Nation governments, and Klahoose government as an example, is arguably the most important social, policy and land-use matter before Regional Districts at this time. We need to be very mindful of the wide and long-term repercussions of the decisions we make. The Background:
The SRD board (rural area directors) is being influenced by an uncommon amount of correspondence before the formal public hearing process – much of this coming from the yachting community. Letters have been coming in both on the merits of the Klahoose marina application, which is normal, but also include their views on the appropriateness of a public hearing venue, contesting that the Klahoose hall would not be appropriate. This is uncommon. The problem with this is that the Cortes public has not yet been involved as you are waiting for due process and trusting that your views will be heard when it comes to the public hearing on Cortes. The Problem:
The real hiccup came with the scheduling of the SRD public hearing. Klahoose provided their available dates and requested that the public hearing be located at the new Klahoose hall. On May 23rd, when it came time for the four electoral area directors to schedule the hearing, a date was selected that did not work for Klahoose and Manson’s was chosen as the location.
Klahoose Chief James Delorme and Councilor Kathy Frances presented at the next SRD board meeting on June 12th requesting that the board reconsider and instead hold the hearing at Klahoose on a day when their staff could attend. Delorme spoke very eloquently to the good relationship that has been developing ‘government-to-government’ between Klahoose and the SRD and wanting to build on that good work. He spoke about the pride that Klahoose has in their new hall, their commitment to holding good space for respectful dialogue, and their desire to host the broader community.
I then proceeded to make many failed attempts to rescind or amend the earlier scheduling decision and to move the hearing to Klahoose on a date that worked for their schedule. The four SRD electoral area directors, including myself, then debated the matter for over an hour. Two of my colleges were totally unwilling to hold the hearing at Klahoose. One director referenced letters from the yacht clubs contending that the Klahoose hall was not neutral ground and therefore not either a safe or appropriate space for the hearing. The other director offered little explanation but was unmovable. Jim Abram supported moving to Klahoose.
I said that this was a clear moment of choice – that we could either show some deference and respect and build on our good rapport with Klahoose or profoundly erode it and set a sour tone for our future First Nations interactions. I shared that it has been tradition to locate public hearings in the affected community, as close as possible to the application: Gorge Harbour shellfish proposal at the Gorge Hall, Linnaea library proposal at Linnaea, etc. A Squirrel Cove application would naturally be located in Squirrel Cove. I told the board that Klahoose has hosted many well attended community events in their new hall. I also stated very clearly that if a venue other than Klahoose was chosen that I fully expected a response from the Cortes community – a community that for well over a decade has been dedicated to working in partnership with Klahoose to secure a Cortes community forest. I also stated that I trusted that yacht club members would attend wherever the hearing was held and speak their mind and that it was of the utmost importance that Klahoose members, who will be amongst the most affected people by this application, be given every chance to easily and comfortably access our democratic local government process. In the end, although the date was changed to accommodate Klahoose’s needs, the location was not. As it presently stands, the public hearing is scheduled for July 24th, at 1 pm at the Gorge Hall.
I did not vote in support of this and am not happy with this decision. I made every effort to honour Klahoose’s request, but I have only 1 of 4 votes. The SRD board meets again on the 27th of June. If you want your voice to be heard by the board on this matter, please address your emails to ‘THE SRD BOARD’ and write ASAP care of administrationstrathconard.ca.
Some have strongly advised me to be more tempered, to take the middle road, hold a more neutral stance… Frankly, when it comes to this topic I am no longer willing. I must speak up. I am constantly mindful of balancing ‘representation’ with ‘leadership’ when choosing my style of governance. Now, on this topic, I choose ‘leadership.’ We must now move into a new era of truth and reconciliation when it comes to our shared past, aboriginal and colonial, and its consequences on our shared present and future. We must show more respect than is now coming from the Strathcona Regional District board table from my fellow rural colleges. Again I reiterate, we need to be very mindful of the wide and long-term repercussions of the decisions we make. The Call to Action:
Stand up! Take time from your garden and families. Stand up! Take time from your work and your play. Stand up! Learn about First Nations traditions and culture. Learn about aboriginal rights and sovereignty. Stand up!The SRD board meets again on the 27th of June. If you want your voice to be heard by the board on this matter, please address your emails to ‘THE SRD BOARD’ and write ASAP care of administrationstrathconard.ca.