Wednesday, March 13, 2024

North Coast MLA marks progress of Bill 8, as Haida Gwaii initiative reaches Second Reading in the Legislature

The BC Legislature moved forward with a piece of legislation of note for Haida Gwaii, with North Coast MLA marking the progress of Bill 8, Athlii Gwaii Legacy Trust (Winding Up) Act

As part of her late evening presentation to the Chamber, MLA Rice provided a snapshot of the history towards the creation of the Bill and its  movement forward for the people of Haida Gwaii.

"To my constituents on Haida Gwaii, thanks for your patience. Okay, I know you ran out of patience, but here we are. Thankfully, we finally got it sorted. I just want to go back to what this means just a little bit. 

I had just turned ten years old in 1985 when a small group of Haida, including Haida Elders and youth, peacefully blockaded a logging road on Lyell Island, which is otherwise known as Athlii Gwaii. I think many people will remember the blockade on Lyell Island, but I wanted to actually just relay the connection to what the Athlii Gwaii piece of legislation is that we're discussing today. 

Athlii Gwaii is not only a place. It's actually a name of a movement of people coming together to basically raise global — national and international — attention to the forced practices of the day. It's also relevant in an acknowledgment of the Haida title to all of Haida Gwaii. That's how it started. 

It started in the '70s, with the folks on Haida Gwaii really wanting the attention and the recognition that this is undisputed territory. In fact, the Haida title case is probably the strongest title case in all of Canada. There is no concern of overlap. All of Haida Gwaii is the traditional and unceded  and the recognition that this is undisputed territory. 

In fact, the Haida title case is probably the strongest title case in all of Canada. There is no concern of overlap. All of Haida Gwaii is the traditional and unceded territories of the Haida Nation. 

After a decade of negotiations with Canada and B.C. in order to protect the archipelago, this was like a consolation to not getting their title recognized. It was: "Well, if we can protect the significant area of South Moresby, the archipelago of islands of South Moresby, this would be a start." 

Part of the goal of having title recognized was in order to protect the environment that sustained Haida people for thousands and thousands of years. Salmon streams were at risk. So by protecting this area, it was essentially a preservation of Haida life. 

The Haida Nation were beyond frustrated with the lack of progress and fed up, essentially, of the unrelenting logging practices in their homelands. 

Many will recall that the standoff on Lyell Island did draw national and international attention in regard to the land title dispute between colonial governments and First Nations governments, but also in regards to just the environmental and economic concerns."

Ms. Rice also outlined for the Chamber, what the future may hold for Haida Gwaii once the Bill has received Royal Assent and the Athlii Gwaii Legacy Trust, winds down and is folded in the Gwaii Trust..

Examples of projects that they want to explore are stream and riparian restoration to support local fish hatcheries, island forest and forest habitat restoration, marine shoreline restoration, possibly a research centre, silviculture. 

Then, as far as renewables are concerned, the goal is to support the transitioning of Haida Gwaii's fossil fuel dependent electrical grids to renewable energy sources, to support the productive and sustainable use of Haida Gwaii's natural resources. 

And again, land, air and water, to sustain these natural resources in perpetuity. 

And so, examples of projects that they want to explore include renewable energy — such as wind, solar, biomass, hydroelectric and tidal — improving energy efficiencies, local food production, recycling and waste. 

I must note that it is really hard to recycle on Haida Gwaii. Here is an island, an isolated remote island, that pays the same recycling fees that we all do in the rest of British Columbia. However, there is no way of actually collecting a lot of those or getting the compensation back when you return them, like we would normally experience in other parts of British Columbia. 

They also want to create things like a nursery to provide seedlings for reforestation and electrical vehicle charging. I must share with you that I found it so…. I don't even want to note; I don't want to say funny, because it's not funny, but it is funny. I was noting the electrical vehicle charging station on the north end of Haida Gwaii, just past Masset towards Tow Hill. 

That is great for the tourists or the people who do own electrical vehicles on Haida Gwaii. However, that electrical vehicle charging station is powered by a diesel generator or diesel generators. 

So I just find it so ironic and, you know, funny, not funny. It is really important to people on Haida Gwaii to walk the talk. They are a community that values environmental stewardship tremendously. It's way up there in the value system, so these are the kinds of projects that they want to explore. 

And there's job creation with these projects. Then, last, the third tenet, which is restoration, which is to protect and restore the natural environment and ecological integrity of Haida Gwaii's land, air, and waters ....

Projects that they're interested in exploring are partnerships with colleges and institutes for local skills-training needs, local food distribution and storage, locally processed forest products, the Graham and Moresby Islands back road infrastructure project, tourism and trails, the Rennell Sound campground boat launch, upgrades to that, a barge container loading facility, inter-island ferry transportation, a steel recycling facility and boat building. 

These are just some of the ideas that the communities on Haida Gwaii have come up with collectively. This is local governments as well as the Haida Nation and Haida members, all working collaboratively together on a shared vision of the future for Haida Gwaii.

To conclude her review, the MLA noted of the delays that marked the progress on the legal issues related to it.  

As well as to pay tribute to a number of those from the past, both in government and on Haida Gwaii who worked on the initiative in recent years.

I am so delighted that we've been finally able to untangle the legal quagmire of this trust in order for the people of Haida Gwaii to use that money in a way that makes sense for local communities — not in a way that makes sense for our perspective, as the provincial government or the federal government — without the narrow confines or the restrictions that were once placed on that trust, narrowly focused on just forestry. 

I just want to conclude my remarks by saying thank you. And Haawa to all of the folks on Haida Gwaii who have patiently waited for us to get to this point of passing this small in words, but large in meaning bill of four clauses. I look forward to this finally passing and to let my constituents know that it becomes effective once royal assent is granted. [6:20 p.m.] That should not be too far away from now.

The full volume of her presentation to the Legislature can be reviewed from the Legislature Archive

The North Coast MLA has also posted the video of her commentary of Tuesday to her social media stream.

More notes on the work of the Legislature can be reviewed through our archive page.

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