REPORTING · 23rd October 2015
John Rustad, Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation, was at the Recreation Centre in Kitamaat Village on Tuesday, October 20th to celebrate a pair of land transfers, lots 305 and 306, 120 Hectares of land, to the Haisla First Nations. The land transferred is South of Kitamaat Village.
“It truly is an honour to be here today on the traditional territory for this momentous occasion,” said Rustad. “The signing of this incremental treaty agreement between the Haisla Nation and the Province will transfer two lots we suggested, 305 and 306, a total of about 120 hectors. […] It is a pleasure for us as a province to be a part of seeing this opportunity and more importantly, what it will mean for the future for the Haisla Nation. What you’ll be able to use and build, how you will be able to provide that extra space that’s needed, particularly for the growth of the future.”
He commended the Haisla Nation on their leadership and vision for the community. He saw this as a step in building a relationship between the province and the Haisla Nation which will lay foundations for what they want to do in the future. He said the Province was proud to be working with the Haisla Nation.
“It’s time to stop dwelling on the past and start building a future.” said Chief Councillor Ellis Ross. “All the pieces are there. Everyone wants to help us get to a better place. […] It’s not just us, the Council, developing the future. It’s everybody working together to bring pieces of that puzzle to make sure, our future generations don’t have to beg to be a part of BC or Canada. We should be equal participants in everything that’s happening in our territory.”
He expressed when they started working with the Provincial Government in 2009, both the Haisla and the Province were taking different approaches to their relationship, but were able to put aside their differences to achieve a common goal. He thanked the BC Government for helping them to achieve the Hospital lands, as well as a number of other lands which the Haisla have obtained.
“They’re working, their staff, our staff, to make sure the permits are done in the interests of Haisla, as well as everybody else. I think Haisla has the working definition of what reconciliation means on the ground and it matters to the average Haisla citizen, not just the people,” said Ross. “Right now, I think BC and Haisla are proving that reconciliation is possible without getting into politics.”
He stated while they will not be there in 100 years, if the leaders of that era are still talking about the same issues they did 50 years ago, then the current leadership will have failed. However, Ross explained he is certain in 100 years, they will no longer be talking about poverty, unemployment and not enough lands to build homes, they will be talking about new issues.
“We are here to celebrate the achievement of something that should have happened at the time the Haisla Nation Reserves were set apart in 1889. At that point, the reserve commissioner noted that the reserves were the smallest and least desirable in the whole agency, but left it at that,” said Alan Donovan, Haisla Lawyer.
He explained the Haisla have been trying to expand their reserve holdings and their lands and have had various degrees of success. These new lands will be merged with other lands the Haisla own to create a large parcel of land. These negotiations have been in the works for over 60 years.
“The Haisla are always persistent when it comes to issues of land, when it comes to issues of Justice,” said Donovan.