General News · 29th October 2013
In a meeting with the Strathcona Regional District (SRD) board on October 24th, the BC Provincial Government (the Province) said that they will hold firm on their license offer to Klahoose Resort Limited Partnership (KRLP) for their marina proposal fronting the Klahoose reserve lands in Squirrel Cove. The marina is now licensed and permitted by all authorizing (non-aboriginal) government agencies (Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Transport Canada, BC Land Tenures, etc) except the SRD who denied the rezoning application in August in a vote that was split 2 to 2. Senior staff from the Province attended the SRD board meeting both to explain the reasons they issued provincial approval and to suggest that the SRD may want to reconsider its decision; something I do not believe is plausible with the current rural area director composition. The Province said that not only is this marina the wish of a First Nation and an opportunity for major economic development for the Nation and the area, but is also consistent with the very recent Cortes Official Community Plan and local will as expressed through the SRD public hearing process.
My three rural colleagues expressed their dismay at this Provincial decision. It does indeed put the SRD in an awkward position in many ways. It was suggested that if the SRD attempted legal action against KRLP that the Province may revise their licensing agreement with KRLP by removing the standard clause that requires all license holders to comply with local zoning. This would be a first for the Province; an unprecedented move in reaction to a very poor SRD decision. Given that local government is a child of the Province, we work at their pleasure. It is with real dismay that I say that we, as SRD rural area directors, cannot say that we consistently represent democratic local will. This is most awkward.
Over the last many years, the SRD has made substantial effort to request that the Province does not issue their foreshore licenses for applications that have not received local government support in the form of zoning approval. The SRD has even sponsored resolutions on this topic that have received province-wide endorsement by the Union of BC Municipalities. Yet at home, we failed to make a decision that was in line with the Cortes Official Community Plan and indeed the clear expressed will both of the broad Cortes community and the Klahoose First Nation.
I said publically at the SRD board meeting with the Province that although, as a board member I wished the Province would respect and follow local government’s lead on foreshore tenures, as the representative for Cortes Island I applauded their choice in the face of a bad decision by the SRD. I also hold two seemingly conflicting opinions about land use planning and governance. I believe that there is value in one democratic land-use plan for any given region that all parties follow. I also believe that First Nation governments should not need to apply to non-aboriginal governments to use their traditional lands. I suppose that is where Treaties come into play – so that First Nations have near autonomy in a portion, however small, of their traditional lands. Not easy issues…