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REPORTING · 12th October 2010
Walter McFarlane
Two of the speakers at the Government Standing Committee on Finance in Terrace on Tuesday, October 5th, were Elected Chief Councillor for the Haisla Nation: Delores Pollard and Councillor Ellis Ross who is the Chairman of the Economic Development Committee. The two of them welcomed the committee to their rainy part of the world before addressing them.

“We have a few main points you have to consider in your deliberations and they all have to do with Aboriginal rights and title, accommodation and economic development as it relates to crown land. We would like to propose interim solutions as to how we can work together for our common economic goals,” said Pollard.

Pollard stated although there were some uncertainties regarding the Haisla lands and resources, there are ongoing discussions and negotiations to resolve these. They have interests in common with the Province and Canada and asked them to consider the Haisla perspective so they could work together so both parties interests are met.

She explained the lands and resources of the Haisla make up their culture and allow them to identify themselves as a nation. “Our culture, history and ancestry are embedded within our lands. The lion’s share of our traditional lands is Provincial Crown land and from another prospective, all provincial Crown lands within traditional territories are subject to the challenge of Aboriginal Rights and Title. This is where we come to an impasse and sometimes halt any progress towards more economic certainty for our region and for our province,” said Pollard.

Pollard pointed out this creates challenges for both parties. They see the Crown's refusal to recognize Aboriginal title and rights makes it hard to address serious social and economic issues facing the Haisla Nation.

“For the Province, any decision you make on Crown Lands is potentially illegal and invalid if you have not adequately consulted with us and accommodated our constitutionally protected aboriginal rights and title. For BC and many potential proponents, investors and partners, the end result is a lot of uncertainty which is of no benefit to any of us in the long term,” said Pollard.

She suggested ways they could address these issues. She explained the Kitimat Liquid Natural Gas Project (KLNG) as the Haisla are strong proponents of the project and it will help secure BC’s Future.

Pollard asked for three things: As the Haisla are doing all they can to make KLNG a success, such as signing a benefits agreement and finalizing a land lease. They have applied to the Federal Government to facilitate the potential expansion of the project onto the Bees Reserve when it is up and running. This application requires Provincial support to succeed.

The second thing she asked for is for the province to investigate the use of the Crown lands between Rio Tinto Alcan’s Private land and the Bees Reserve as it could lead to additional economic development.

The third thing she asked for regarded the First Nations Commercial and Industrial Development Agreement Protocol (FNCIDAP) which is an agreement between the Haisla and the Federal and Provincial Governments. It is essential for KLNG moving forward. She requested this be reached in a timely manner.

“British Columbia, through the Oil and gas Commission and legal Council has been very supportive of the regulatory objective. We ask for the Province of British Columbia to ensure that the necessary technical and legal resources are allocated to this project to ensure it’s timely completion. The importance of KLNG and the economic opportunities it creates for the Haisla Nation, for the region and for the Province as a whole cannot be overstated,” said Pollard.

She concluded that both governments face hurdles as they try to address the unresolved issues between the coexistence of Crown and Aboriginal title. She hoped that good faith and hard work will build the solutions to move them forward

“It is on this basis that we ask the Province of BC for their support in helping us move forward on these important economic opportunities that will be of benefit to us all and move us in the right direction,” said Pollard.

MLA Bruce Ralston asked the first question. He wanted to know if the negotiations for the Bees Reserve was a part of the negotiations or is an interim measure for the specific progress. Ross replied they were looking at it for economic purposes and a partnership with the BC government. He pointed out this land is going to be dealt with anyway.

Ralston also asked how big the land was. Ross replied the land was not very big. The Haisla do have a first rights agreement with Alcan if they want to sell land. They want this land so they could use it, not so they could lock it up.

Doug Donaldson clarified that the Federal Government have established a dedicated technical team for the FNCIDAP and they were asking for one from BC. Ross explained there is a representative but the representative does not have the full resources which it will take to get things moving as quickly as Canada or the Haisla want.

“BC oil and gas is there but they admit to us that we don’t have the resources to actually go full scale on what everybody else wants. That’s what we’re here for… Not just here… but we’re but we’re going to different levels of the government within the BC Government to say ‘Put some resources towards this… not just one or two people. Do your legal work and technical work. Put some money towards that,” said Ross.

With that, there were no more questions so Pollard and Ross thanked them for their time and left.