John Farrell: We are going to open it up for the next forty-five minutes and take questions from the floor.
Question: One of the Treaties you didn’t mention in any depth and I’m not sure at all about is the Nisga’a Treaty. I’d like some comment on it, because it’s done. How is it working? Do you see it as any kind of a model for northwest Treaties?
Miles Richardson: Ask Mac.
James Robinson [Mac]: Hello, my name is James Robinson, I’m from Kincolith one of the villages along the Nass River. I carry hereditary title with my house of Chief Mountain. Right now through the treaty process we’re currently fighting for that Title how 92 percent of our ancestral lands were surrendered to fee simple? And 100 percent of the Chief Mountain lands are a part of that 92 percent. Through my position of Chief Mountain, in my lifetime, my responsibility for my ancestors is to protect the lands for the Chief Mountains yet to come these are the words of my grandfather. This is part of the complexity that Miles is talking about that we’re all unique; it’s who we are.
I too believe that we have to work together, that we need a common understanding. You know of our goals and our aspirations for our grandchildren. There was a man that just passed away a couple years ago Ernie Collison you all probably know of him or knew him, but one thing I really believe and I echo his words, we need to make a better future for our children. Part of this is what Miles has been talking about. I really believe we have to understand that we are all here together. I feel a lot of hope for Haida Gwaii; I really do believe things are going to happen through this Island.
Just to let you know where I stand, because I’ve gone against the Treaty process with the Nisga’a it’s very tense right now. The Treaty process has basically split our people it’s maybe half and half from my point of view, not all of us are happy with what happened. I have hopes for what Miles is talking about here; we need to straighten this thing out about title. We have ancestral title, one of the concepts that I bring forward to my people and every one of you; you carry that heritage of our ancestors. Chief Mountain belongs to all of you, it’s part of our heritage and we need to embrace rather than extinguish. Extinguishment is where 100 percent of Chief Mountain lands were surrendered and my question to the people is what does Chief Mountain mean without the mountain?
As far as how it’s working? There are success stories but there is also hardship and I guess through this democratic process not all of us can get all of our concerns or wishes seen.
It’s been very informative Miles; one of the questions I have is in regard to this new understanding of working together rather than extinguishment. Where does the Treaty Commission sit with the Nisga’a Treaty? From the views of our lawyers that represent us in our court case the treaty has another two or three years to go before it’s fully implemented and you say that our court case is not too late to get that straightened out.
This is my hope that through the process of the Treaty Commission we can really understand each other clearly about whom we are. There is a lot more I would like to say but I know there are a lot of people here that would like to talk about this new relationship and I’m really interested in this. My concern is how can the Chief Mountain people sustain themselves without the land, in my view the native people need to be brought back to the land in order to gain our strength back. Thank you.
Miles Richardson: [Referring ] to the question about how the Nisga’a Treaty relates to this process in terms of a precedent or I think you called it a template.
The Nisga’a negotiation preceded the BC Treaty Process, however they negotiated according to a similar six-stage process. Their treaty is not intended, or is it deemed by any of the three parties, to be a template for any other negotiation. The Nisga’a Treaty is the business of the Nisga’a people, like any treaty would be. Having said that, there are realities when you have a government in Victoria that has a jurisdiction around the province and you have a government in Ottawa that has jurisdiction around the country, there are going to be similar elements. I don’t think we’re going to have 50 different education systems in this province or 50 different health care systems, it would be pretty ineffective and probably too expensive anyway. There are going to be some similar elements but each table will address that in their own way. In terms of a template? I will say that it is the only treaty in the province in modern times that has been ratified by a First Nation and that is a tough task. You hear Mac, he’s one of the hereditary chiefs in the Nisga’a territory and there are issues. You look at British Columbians, you wait until this Snuneymuxw Treaty comes forward, and do you think British Columbians are going to be unanimous on the terms of it? I doubt it. The government in Victoria has to represent the people; it has to balance conflicting interests, similar to the government in Ottawa. Each of these treaties is going to test that ability of good governance on each side of the table including First Nations.
Question: I’m curious about the case of the Haida Nation vs. Weyerhaeuser and British Columbia and how the rulings or whether the rulings have had an impact at the treaty table. Have the attitudes of the negotiating parties been affected by it in any way from those rulings?
Miles Richardson: I believe so and the commission believes so. When we did our review of the treaty process two years ago, one of our main criticisms of the parties was that they were coming to the table with too much of a fixed position. They weren’t coming to the tables creatively and flexibly. For example, we would see in a number of situations Canada and BC coming to the table with joint mandates that amounted to a take it or leave it proposition. First Nations would respond by alleging bad faith. You could have the best treaty process in the world, the best negotiating process but without political will to come to an agreement you have nothing. After those court cases I noticed and this is opinion a change in the will to come to agreement and on some of the big issues. Those court cases perhaps weren’t the only factor and I don’t think it would be credible to say they were the only factor, but did they have an impact I think they had a significant impact. If you look at what motivates parties at the table in the Weyerhaeuser case, the Crown in right of the province had taken a view to the negotiating table, ‘We’ll sit down and negotiate with you in good faith and at the end of the negotiating day when we reach an agreement we’ll implement it, until then nothing will change.’ In that case the Court said, ‘No, that’s wrong. Those rights, including title, exist today and the Crown and their delegates, companies or whatever, have an obligation, a lawful obligation, once they have a prima facie case has been established, they have a lawful obligation to not only consult but to accommodate that title.
That’s a huge difference from business-as-usual until we reach an agreement. That in itself precipitated a big change in the Province well some would say they’re big, some would say they’re not in their consultation and accommodation policies. That turned up the heat. Imagine a company that is doing business and is clearly in the face of a title claimant. You don’t know what the elements of that title are and the court has just told you that regardless of what the elements of that title are, that if your interfering with them today after you have been warned, you are financially liable. You are doing business and you don’t know what your liability side of the balance sheet is, you must have a lot of money if you’re going to leave your money there. I better not say anymore.
Question: I wonder if there is any possibility first I want to thank you for your presentation, I think there will be a better understanding here in how we relate to each other. But I do want to ask you what is the reason that they don’t deal with in the treaty process as Nations rather than Reserves and because we’re up against an elective system it makes it very difficult to have any consistency within the provincial government side of things. If you deal with us as Nations it would cost you a lot less and you could come to the Nations to negotiate. The BC government is supposed to be negotiating with us by their own laws, now we’re required to negotiate with them. I want to know what legal process took place that changed that. Up to the Rockies they negotiated with the native people and in British Columbia they are making us negotiate with them, which means anything that we leave out becomes a problem. If we leave something out and we go to court, we can’t bring it up again. So it becomes a thing of our system against their system. Their system is an elective system, always changing, ours has been constant because we have a hereditary system. Wouldn’t it be better to deal with the Nations rather than with Reserves, which is their system?
Miles Richardson: That is a really good question and in answering that I would say that it’s my responsibility and I’m not just passing the buck, it’s our responsibility as the Treaty Commission to accept First Nations into the process. I say this to you really clearly; that it’s up to a First Nation wherever they may be to define who they are. That’s the mandate we have been handed, but what they have to accomplish in defining their nationhood is a mandate from their constituency. That’s the issue.
For example there are Nations that are at the negotiating table and I sight the Wet’suwet’en Nation who are there organized through their house system. They are represented by their house chiefs, that’s their traditional system and they have come to the negotiating table and have been recognized at the table by the other governments on their terms. They received ratification through their own people for that.
The reality is, this process is not designed for Bands. But the reality is Bands in British Columbia through habit and financing are the ones that are financed. Inevitably that’s what they’re familiar with and that’s what they ratify to represent their Nations but it is up to their people. If there are situations where there is a desire by the people to organize in a different way the Treaty Commission will go out and work with them. It’s not up to us to define who the Nations are, it’s up to us to except the legitimate terms that they organized themselves on, but their people have to ratify it.
I’ve faced situations where hereditary chiefs have said, ‘Who are you to question my authority over my territory,’ and I agree, who am I, but I can’t accept their definition of a Nation if they don’t have their constituency approving it. I have very minimal terms to be accountable to in that regard and I think it’s appropriate, that the people agree.
Response: I’m not saying that you’re accountable for what the process is but have they [Band Councils] ever been told that if they dealt as a Nation they would have a better chance.
Miles Richardson: I believe that and I think it’s being put forward constantly. The Band Council system is, whether it’s right or wrong is prevalent in First Nations lives and it’s very powerful.
Response: But they are a part of their [Crown] system, that’s what makes it difficult.
Miles Richardson: I hear you 100-percent and that was the reason we wanted an independent keeper of the process. So Canada and BC, who are negotiating on the other side of the table couldn’t be determining who they’re negotiating with. So, we are the keeper of the process, but we have minimal criteria that we have to adhere to. One of our criteria is people have to have a demonstrated historical relationship with the place they claim to be from. Two, they have to have some of that area they lay claim uncontested, if the area they are claiming is claimed by another [First Nation] there is probably something else going on there.
Miles Richardson: The third one is their constituency have to agree, and there aren’t any rules on how their constituency agree. There is nothing that says you have to call a meeting and have a show of hands. They just have to demonstrate to the Commission that they’ve included their people. They make their own rules; it’s very permissive as it should be. A Nation isn’t a Nation unless they define themselves, that’s one of the fundamental principals of this process. Canada and BC have tried hard to live up to that principle.
Question: I think you answered part of my question earlier, but you spoke quite clearly about fundamental and jurisdictional governance of the federal and provincial governments. It is firmly written; it is firmly rooted in history, as Canadian people understand it to be. What isn’t rooted is the First Nations governance. You spoke about it being quite new and one of the things that you didn’t touch on, that could have a huge impact on First Nations governance is the Corbiere decision. I’m wondering if you’ve seen any shifts in the political will, the vision, or definition of the mandates of the people you deal with, from your treaty table perspective and do you see it happening in the future?
Miles Richardson: I see a diversity of First Nation organizations around the province; I’ve seen very little change in the five years I’ve been with the commission in that organization. There is a concern about that because clearly some of the for example the mandate development procedures that First Nations go through which are going to play out in the ratification of agreements involvement of the people generally is not, on the surface, effective.
We haven’t collectively put our minds and our resources to supporting the development of governance in First Nations. One objective of the Treaty Commission is to work with First Nations with the support of Canada and BC to develop options for First Nations governance, to be inclusive as the Corbiere decision said, even if their members don’t live in the village they’ve got to be included, that was one of the rules in this process from the beginning. Those Nations had to explain and convince the Treaty Commission that they were including all of their claimed membership, citizenship. But it’s a big area. It’s a challenge. I think Canada and BC are accepting it as a challenge, they accept that if we’re going to develop positive durable new relationships, good First Nations governance is essential. We have to get on with that, we have to develop it. If a First Nation needs to develop, if they choose a constitution they need resources, they need examples, they need technical support. If they want to develop a fisheries management initiative, they don’t all start as well as the Haida Nations’ is, you’ve got to build that capacity and provide the resources and expertise to do that in forestry, education, and health. It’s not happening, you put your finger on something important. We’re jumping in and trying to get the parties to focus, there is a lot of interest from universities, they have expressed interest about focusing their resources on that, the Laurier Institute and different institutions downtown in Vancouver. Even environmental groups who are trying to push interim measures and trying to get economic activity going in First Nations around the province are frustrated that governance in First Nations isn’t allowing this to happen governance in First Nations isn’t strong enough to do good business development. They’re coming to us and saying, ‘Hey we’ll kick in, this is an important project.’ So stay tuned, there is a lot to be done on that front.
Question: Do you see a resistance from the provincial and federal governments to recognize the impacts of the Corbiere decision? Because other than treaties there are several levels that they have to deal with us as First Nations people and our numbers double if they include the members as a result of the Corbiere decision?
Miles Richardson: There are a whole bunch of factors that are increasing the effort and resources it takes for these governments in Ottawa and Victoria to manage First Nations. Just day-to-day inflation means the costs are going up and the First Nations population, I think, is the fastest growing population in the province that’s escalating costs. In the meantime nothing is changing, the dismal statistics for health and all that aren’t changing. Their answer in the long term, they say, is making a new relationship with First Nations and having First Nations through their own good governance manage these things themselves. Of course the incentive for those governments is to have some cap on how much it is going to cost them but that wouldn’t be a problem with revenue sharing. No government has all the resources it wants, you always have to make choices over scarce resources, but if you can get a sufficient and dependable source of revenue and I’d say revenue from the resources and taxation. People think that having control over forestry and fisheries is going to be the answer to all their problems, do you know what percentage of revenues to government come from those resource industries, from the direct revenue flow, eight percent. Most of the rest comes from other forms of taxation. So when you talk about revenue sharing your talking about taxation primarily.
Question: I want to thank you for the excellent presentation; I have a comment and question. I originally come from India and just like Canada at some point in history the British colonized us. The big difference is the British left thanks to Gandhi. So, our history did a complete turn and what we have is total freedom and democracy and complete ownership of the land and everything that goes with it our culture was intact in many ways.
One of the things that struck me most about Canada I’ve only been here for seven years by the way is that the amount of deliberate misinformation out there at different levels. Whether it’s media, government, the school system, anything you name, the deliberate misinformation, the passing on of it and the amount of time and energy wasted to tackle that.
It strikes me as very odd that at this time in history, civilization and technology and everything else, we talk about reconciliation. What is interesting is on one hand when reconciliation was happening the misinformation and dividing people by instilling fear happened sort of almost as a parallel. I feel that the only way just like the success stories in the environment this entire process can be stopped is at the grassroots level. It is people taking control over this reconciliation process because the very people who have either been oppressors or did not use their authority in the rightful way, if they become in charge of reconciliation a new set of problems emerge.
If common citizens at very local levels can take some control over this process of reconciliation it would be sincere because I really do care about my neighbour and I believe my neighbour does care about me. So if we can have some control over the process and build it from bottom to top, I think it would be more meaningful rather than it coming down again.
My government can tell me it’s time to reconcile, but if I don’t know what I’m reconciling and I’m not interested in the process there is not going to be success. I think in all of this, whether it is the land issue or multiculturalism, whatever it is, coexistence whatever you call it, I think the key is learning to treat each other with respect and taking the time and effort to understand each other and I think it has to start at the grassroots level. A place like Haida Gwaii can teach the rest how it can be done.
Miles Richardson: Thank you. I think that absolutely. There isn’t a government that’s going to do anything against that popular opinion. They’ll lead to a certain degree but they don’t go very far and if the grassroots get informed and get focused on an objective, a new way of doing things, that’s the most powerful thing to bring about change.
I think one good example is Turning Point and I’m not sure how aware everyone here is about the Turning Point initiative but that came about after the notion, ‘You get five percent and I get ninety-five and never in between.’ First Nations on the north coast the Treaty Commission was involved in facilitating got together and said we’re not getting anywhere with the governments across the tables on this issue, let’s talk to our neighbours and let’s break this down, let’s address stewardship first and we’ll do jurisdiction second. What they did is exactly what you’re saying. At an organizing level they talked to their neighbours, they talked to the forest industry, they talked to the regional districts and municipalities in their regions, they talked to environmental groups and all the organized groups, this wasn’t totally grassroots but it was at a different level than government. They developed protocols with each of them on the land use process and then they approached Victoria. Far from Victoria saying no, we’re not going to do it, they saw this broad committed coalition and they said good idea. That was Premier Clarke in the last days of his government. The government changed in the election, Premier Campbell came in and he said good idea, simply because there was such a strong coalition around it.
I think it’s going to transform this province in a really constructive way the opportunity to do what you’re saying if people have the courage to do it, if they have the courage to sit down and listen to each other.
Question: Does the Treaty Commission have anything to say about the legitimacy or the reasonableness of one party setting conditions about the adoption of interim measures or about one party apparently devising these interim accommodation packages in isolation?
Miles Richardson: If there is one issue that the Treaty Commission since the outset of this process has pushed parties on and has been in the face of British Columbia and Canada on it’s interim measures. Can we say the initiative is not good enough or it’s in the wrong direction? We advise them on that behind the scenes. But if we come out and do that we can do that but whether it is strategically effective is another question. In specific instances where an issue has been identified and there has been no effort to come to an interim measures table the Treaty Commission is in the parties’ face. Do we say your economic measure policy or your Treaty measure policy isn’t in line with recommendation number 16 we do say that but we don’t sanction them on it. The parties to negotiations are fond of saying the Treaty Commission has no steam, that we can ring the bell and shine the light on things that are happening but we can’t force any of the parties to take any specific action. I think that’s appropriate, I think we should have the power to compel the parties to come to a session. When negotiations break down we should be able to make the negotiators come to the table. I think that is one power we need and it is being considered now. If we should go to BC and say, ‘I think you should do an interim measure over Maude Island,’ for example, that would make us one of the parties and I think it would reduce our effectiveness, but we do comment.
Response: I’m just pointing out that there is a process in which interim measure negotiations are conducted that doesn’t seem to be quite the same as the way the treaty negotiation process is conducted.
Miles Richardson: Interim measures negotiations are largely ad hoc. They’re government to government agreements that are finite in time. Treaties are intended to be durable, constitutionally protected and go on forever. Interim measures are more ad hoc and they’re just when an issue pops up and the governments have to sit down and address it. The Gwaii Haanas Agreement is the first Interim Measures Agreement that I’m familiar with. That’s quite a story and that just happened out of the will of the parties. That is a whole other story.
Question: I think the Treaty process, from my perspective, is probably one of the easier aspects of this whole process, in that if the people sitting at the table have the will, be that the will that comes from the flexibility of the people sitting at the table or from the will that comes from government decisions, treaties will be made, and there will be agreements that come about where some powers will be the responsibility of a First Nations. Once you decide or agree upon which powers are transferred I think the difficulty comes in how those powers are going to be used with people that have historically been governed, at least for the past few hundred years, by outsiders who don’t have any experience in governing some of these complex issues.
Is there a way for the Treaty Commission to monitor and to transfer some of the skills for governance that would be necessary for the treaty to be enacted properly and without being abused or without democratic principals being abused? I can see a treaty being something relatively easily agreed upon but in the enactment of the conditions of the treaty and those powers that are being transferred I can see it being problematic for a First Nations that doesn’t have the experience or doesn’t have the education.
Miles Richardson: Definitely, it is one of our big collective challenges. Treaties in some instances are imminent and to one-day wake up with jurisdiction over fish, over forests, definitely over land areas, that’s a huge job. Maybe you start developing laws, you’re accountable to people too. Having our own government isn’t a panacea for all our problems and there’s probably a lot more problems. One of our challenges is to build the institutions and capacities for good governance in First Nations before we get the final treaties resolved. Each of the three parties recognizes that.
British Columbia has serious problems about the source of authority on First Nations governance powers. First Nations and Canada agree that they are inherent, that they come from history, they’re not touchable by parliament or the legislature. British Columbia believes they have to be delegated from the parliament and legislature. So there is a serious difference at the table over that. There is no difference in understanding that First Nations should have good governance, all three parties agree on that and they are all looking at ways on how to have that start happening.
There are some legislative initiatives; in Ottawa they have that First Nations Governance Act which I think is a strong interim measures step for governance, for having the First Nations move away from the Indian Act and deciding themselves how their leaders are selected, how they’re accountable, how they’re budgeting their financial resources etc. It’s the rudimentary elements of governing, putting that in place and providing resources to be able to attract trained and valuable members of your community and Nation to provide them career-type opportunities, provide them with pensions, to provide serious options for them to build good governance.
Question: What tools will you, as keeper of the process, have to monitor the process. Let’s say a First Nation puts forth a negotiating body that is agreed upon at the outset as a national government and then when you’ve gone into stage four or five of the treaty process and then say, there is a Chief Councilor elected who totally aborts the process and has the ability to destroy that process and does so. What tools will you have as keeper of the process to determine that this challenge to the process comes from merely an individual? It has occurred in many instances around this province where national governments have been put forth to negotiate in good faith and then you get one or two Chief Councilors who don’t agree with the process and use that authority not only given to them by Canada, but given to them by their people, as a source of the Canadian government challenging the very process. What tools do you have to monitor that because in the past the government of British Columbia has stated they will deal with the legally represented government. For instance, the Haida Nation isn’t a legal entity but the Band Councils are, what tools will you have to prevent that from happening in the future or to monitor the people accountable for that?
Miles Richardson: I don’t think there is a fail-safe system of government anywhere in the world. The first thing we do, as keeper of the process is have the First Nation define clearly to the Commission who their membership is, and what their institutions of governance are. They explain to us that there is a system with a decision making discipline and secondly at each step of the Treaty process and they’re outlined in the six stage process the parties must ratify each of the steps. The same people, the same constituency who are going to ratify the treaty at the end of the day must ratify it consistently throughout its development. That’s really the only tool we have to do that.
Question: What does the table consider a majority of a nation and what do the respected parties call accommodation, if anything at all at this point?
Miles Richardson: As I stated previously the First Nation has broad latitude in defining their nationhood. The First Nation defines what their territory is, and the overlapping territories are worked out as we go along. They define their territory, they define who their people are, their membership, their citizenship and they define their institution of governance. So in defining their membership and their institutions of governance they are defining for the process, for the table.
We’re there to monitor and ensure they’ve done it. If they haven’t done it we stop the process and tell them they’ve got to do it. Once they do it the process proceeds, but once it’s done that’s the standard for that Nation. It’s up to them and sometimes you get leaders who have a different vision than their constituency at the outset. Perhaps their constituency in their enthusiasm to move forward agree and ratify it at the front end but when push comes to shove, on some of the big issues, they don’t like what’s happening and maybe they’ll scuttle it, either at the framework agreement, stage three or agreement in principal, stage four and that’s their power, that must be their power. So our job and that’s what I was saying about governance that’s why we have to step up our activity in making sure First Nations have the capability to have good governance because it’s not about a leader sitting on top of the pack making all the decisions because that will never prevail. The people have to be involved and the government has to be legitimate and we haven’t been doing enough of that, I’m the first to admit that, all the parties admit that and we have to get with that.
The second question was what constitutes accommodation. The courts have not ruled definitively on that and I don’t think there is any Nation in the province that have had a declaration of aboriginal title that lays out what those elements are. So how you do accommodate the aboriginal title of a First Nation at this point? You’d have to ask the First Nation. I don’t think anybody else has the competence to answer that. You’d get a view of the First Nation and then you’d talk to the other parties and they might have a different view. That’s the nature of the situation we’re in. The courts have pushed us out into that uncertainty and I think consciously so and now it’s our challenge to sit down and discuss at a table like civilized people what reasonable and acceptable is. I say that’s what this process is through treaty-making and interim measures and it is exactly what this process is designed to do. The parties have to want to do it though.
Question: One of the things that really made me uncomfortable about the treaty process, and I’m not sure if I’m right, is the fact that we had to borrow money to go through this process. We’ve been held back from our own resources and we have had no way of making money as Indian people for a long time, so we don’t really have the resources to fund ourselves for this process. I find it strange that the government can back the process with money that they earn off of our land. If we opt out of the process we have to pay it back immediately with what?
Miles Richardson: It’s a big issue. That issue is on the table amongst the three parties as we speak. I talked about the higher-level process where we’re dealing with certainty, compensation, and all those things. The issue that’s on that table right now is the issue you talk about. First Nations didn’t formally agree to take loans at the principle level; they took them grudgingly. The Treaty Commission administers those loans and First Nations who take it have to do all the legal liabilities sign it and they do that. Since the outset it’s basically been under protest. Now the First Nations are saying. ‘Look we’ve been negotiating for ten years, and for nine years and eleven months of this you haven’t been serious, we’re not going to pay you for those loans.’
So now they’re sitting down and talking about how to work it out. It usually happens in a lot messier way than we’re experiencing. I’m not trying to make excuses about the process, I know we’ve got a long way to go, I’m trying to build some momentum around the little advances we’ve made, but these are serious issues with huge stakes.
Question: There is going to be a mixed Land Use Planning table sitting around trying to come up with a vision for Haida Gwaii/Queen Charlotte Islands as to how we’re going to be using the resources that are here on the Islands. I’m somewhat confused about the whole process in that there are going to be people sitting at the table that have invested interests, that have an agreement with the government to do business on the Islands and yet very little of that income is actually because of the corporate structure is actually coming back to the Islands, other than the few jobs and that may even be changing with the Ministry of Forests recent changes in forest tenure where the companies can come back and do business here for one year out of five and then for the other four years the communities are basically a ghost town.
There are fish lodges that are working up here and they’re not employing as many local people as perhaps they could be and it just goes on and on and on. These are all government-sanctioned enterprises that are basically preying on resources that haven’t even begun to be addressed or even measured to a large extent. Where is the faith in the process? That’s basically what it gets down to, and the consistency of vision, because I’m thinking that the people that originally came to the table a hundred years ago and spoke to what their needs were, their minds weren’t as polluted by commercialism and by monetary gains and all those other things. Perhaps their vision is pure and we can learn something from that vision, they may have had something that we don’t have a grasp of anymore. I’m wondering where you say to trust the process I’m wondering where is the faith, where is the faith going to come from? To me it’s a real leap of faith.
I didn’t say trust the process I said the process is fundamentally sound. One thing we have built over the years is a hard-won degree of trust amongst the parties. That’s what I talked about. How do I measure that trust we had this situation of the referendum, it was obnoxious to a lot of First Nations and British Columbians but there was enough trust amongst the parties to say, ‘Hey we’ll get this behind us, let’s stay focused at the table.’ That may not be a high level of trust but it is some and we build step-by-step. The nineteen re commendations that I talk about are a vision for this process that the governments of British Columbia, Canada and the participating First Nations have bought into. I don’t pretend that they live up to them every day because they don’t; they do things that are at odds with those fundamental commitments. Our task is to figure out as each of the issues comes forward as the negotiations move forward, to keep their practical agenda focused on achieving those fundamental commitments. That’s where I see progress happening.
Those land use planning tables, I’m saying to you and this is my opinion, I see that as a huge step. If we had a land use planning table twelve years ago we would not have had to go and blockade and spend all those years through that hardship. I think that there is enough leverage here, enough seriousness amongst the people here to make a process like that work. It may be true that a Haida hunter-gatherer or a sawmill operator in Port Clements may not ever agree with Weyerhaeuser at the table. But if you look at the process, if there is not consensus as the stakeholder process is designed then that issue gets bumped up to the government-to-government table. The Haida Nation and the government of BC will have to take that information and make a decision. That’s why I have hope in it. I think with people of good will it can work, I think it’s the best chance we’ve got to have a huge breakthrough on stewardship.
Maybe we don’t have the clarity of vision that the people had here a hundred years ago, but we’re here, and we’re in the situation we’re in. You can’t turn the clock back. We’ve got to deal with the situation we’re in and use all the information to inform ourselves. There is no point making the same mistakes again. We’ve got a good shot at it, I don’t think its all doom and gloom but I think it’s a heck of a lot of work. If it can be done anywhere it can be done here. I’m really looking forward to the results of the land use process. If you put that together with some governance building, not just amongst the Haida, I think their neighbours here have to do some work on that as well. If you put that land use plan together so there is buy-in with strong governance built on these Islands you have an excellent start.