Thursday, September 24, 2009

A call for discussion and co-operation

One of the interesting aspects of Tuesday's public meeting over the potential Canpotex development at Ridley Island was the introduction of relations between the First Nations of the region and other residents of the North Coast.

An underlying theme regarding all development of late, whether it be the fishery, the expansion of the Port of Prince Rupert, oil and gas development and pipelines, or as we learned on Tuesday with the plans from Canpotex to consider developing a potash terminal in the region.

There apparently is a perception in some segments of Prince Rupert society that the First Nations are determined to block all industrial development, a perception that representatives of the Allied Tribes of Coast Tsimshian touched on briefly during their welcoming remarks to the Canpotex officials on Tuesday.

Now in what seems to be a move to seek out further dialogue with their neighbours, the Coast Tsimshian have called for a public meeting to take place to encourage further discussion between both First Nations and other residents.

The thinking behind the latest request for a dialogue seems to be to provide the Coast Tsimshian the opportunity to use the public forum to outline their thoughts on future development on the north coast and how it may impact on their territorial lands and the lives of their people.

It was the kind of fence mending that former Prince Rupert Mayor Herb Pond would occasionally engage in, holding meetings with the local representatives of the First Nations of the region, though few if any, were in such a public open forum setting. During his time as Mayor, more than few residents have suggested that he had accomplished mixed results from those discussions. Though the relationships that were built at least must have helped in his post political employment options, considering his most recent appointment in Lax Kw'alaams.
There hasn't been much in the way of feedback yet from the current officials of the City of Prince Rupert, elected or administrative staff, nor has Regional District had much to say about the Coast Tsimshian initiative yet, though one would think that it would be a positive step, if for no other reason than to clear the air over any misconceptions that could fester into larger issues as other projects and development plans may come along.

The public meeting could provide some background information and help to reassure those residents that fear that all development plans would automatically come to a halt in the air of the uncertainty that sometimes seems to exist. It could be a welcome move that could go a long way in providing the facts on the issue as opposed to the emotions that sometimes tend to get in the way of constructive dialogue.

The Daily News touched on the issue briefly in their Wednesday paper, while the Northern View provided an extended look at the public meeting request and what issues the Coast Tsimshian are looking to share thoughts on.

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