Lots of questions at Queen Charlotte protocol meeting



By Heather Ramsay--Will it be a referendum or a council decision whether

Queen Charlotte signs the protocol agreement with the Council of the Haida


This and many other questions came up at the first public meeting held to

discuss the topic on July 18.


"A resoundingly successful referendum would give a pile of power to the

agreement," said resident Duncan White.


Others were not sure a referendum was the best idea, and still others were

not clear what signing the document would even mean for Queen Charlotte.


At least 36 people filled the Eric Ross Room for a special meeting of the

Queen Charlotte Council to listen to CHN president Guujaaw discuss the

agreement and what it means for island communities.


Guujaaw says the agreement is about respecting each other's communities, but


the document is also recognition of the co-existence of two kinds of title -


Crown and Haida aboriginal title.


Crown title is the jurisdiction the governments of Canada have over lands

that are not privately owned. This jurisdiction has been in place since

Confederation and before.


Haida aboriginal title is what the CHN is seeking in its title case before

the courts, a type of title that exists under Canadian law.


Confusingly, a third kind of title, Haida title, existed well before either

of the above legal ideas, according to Guujaaw. He said this title does not

depend on Canada or its laws for legitimacy, and has existed through Haida

ancestry and thousands of years on the land.


One of the most pressing questions that came up at the meeting is what Haida


aboriginal title means for private property.


Guujaaw said the Haida position hasn't changed in 30 years. When title is

established, the Haida have no interest in bothering people in their homes,

he says.

He pointed to a section in the Protocol agreement. It reads, "the parties

ensure that individuals and communities will not be dispossessed of lands,

and that any unlawful acquisitions of the past will be the liability of the



Guujaaw admits the Crown is not a party to, nor has it signed the document.


He went on to say some fee simple land is owned by large corporations and

tenures such as the Tree Farm License and others such as woodlots are

considered illegal to the Haida.


"We're not letting Brascan off the hook."


In fact, he says there is a real opportunity for the Haida to take over some


tenured land in the future. This is one of the aspects he would like to

connect with communities about.


He'd like to see some kind of local management structure of any timber

licenses discussed.


These and other topics would on the table during Protocol meetings, which

the public are welcome to attend.


The Protocol Agreement has been signed by Port Clements, Masset and a

version was signed last spring by the Regional District Electoral Area D.


Guujaaw said the document had been around for quite awhile before these

signings, but had spent some time on the shelf.


"People including on our side got a little uncomfortable," he said, likening


the agreement to getting married.


He said he was not holding anyone ransom to sign the agreement, nor was he

in any rush.


Sandra Price asked what the impact would be if the community said "No."


"The province would be gleeful," said Guujaaw, but he said it doesn't really


matter in terms of law. He reiterated that the agreement strengthens the

relationship between the communities.


"It strengthens our position and it strengthens the collective position as

well," he said.


Mayor Carol Kulesha said signing or not signing the agreement makes a



"This is a choice our community needs to make," she said.


Mayor Kulesha said this meeting was the council's first attempt to gauge the


minds of residents on the Protocol agreement. She encouraged people to call,


email, write or stop in to the Village office with comments or questions

about signing the protocol.


She said she didn't think a referendum was necessary at this point, but she

was open to hearing from residents.


Councillors passed a motion at their June 19 council meeting to make a

decision on whether to sign the agreement by September 21.


Resident Frank Wall said he was concerned about people not being

well-informed to vote on the topic. He had barely found out about the

meeting, and wasn't sure where to get any more information.


Mayor Kulesha agreed this is a common problem in local government, but put

the onus back on community members.


"Everyone has to speak to other friends in coffee shops and discuss these

issues," she said.


"If you want to influence how things work, you have to come to meetings and

participate and do your homework, instead of being the person who stands at

the back and complains."


In support of council making the decision with input from the community, she


said: "You elected us to represent what we think is the best interests of

the community.


Councillor Kris Olsen also spoke in favour of council making the decision.


"It is important for our council to make a decision off the mark that is as

strong as this," he said.


Resident Tracy Morton noted the Haida's case for title seemed pretty strong.


He suggested signing the protocol was a way to ensure the community had a

place at the table with the Haida.


"I can't vote for Guujaaw. He is not accountable to me," he reminded people.


Resident Kevin Gibson said a telephone referendum, like that done to gauge

preference for the name of the newly incorporated village, could be carried



He suggested that question was "not as important as the relationship we have


with the Haida" and a telephone referendum would give the village real

feedback from the street.


Councillor Greg Martin suggested the discussion move onto the street after

the meeting. "I'd like to see people making themselves more informed."