Saturday, December 29, 2007

Opening communication on the north coast

Prince Rupert, Port Edward and the local First nations communities of the North coast recently got together to go over shared issues in the area, taking part in a dialogue that local officials hope will prove to be a template for future sessions.

The Daily News provided some of the details on the conference which identified some common interests to work on for the good of the entire region, the front page story examined the findings of the conference and where it may lead to in the future.

By Leanne Ritchie
The Daily News
Friday, December 28, 2007
Pages one and three

Prince Rupert and Port Edward ended the year by hosting a community-to-community conference, and it hopefully will set the stage for good things to come.

The city and district invited their First Nations neighbours to sit down and talk, with few goals in mind, just as a way to open the lines of communication.

"Invitations were extended to four communities: Lax Kw'alaams, Hartley Bay, Metlakatla and Kitkatla," said Prince Rupert Mayor Herb Pond.

Both Metlakatla and Kitkatla were well represented.

"We had a hard time scheduling it, so we finally just set a date and said whoever can come can come and we will start there," said Pond.

He said he hopes representatives from the other communities will be able to participate in future talks.

"We are certainly interested in bringing them in as we move forward."

There was nothing formal on the agenda for the forum.

"It really was a blank slate. I think that was part of why it worked. We agreed, all of us, if all that came of the day was that we talked ... then that was an OK outcome. Because of that I think it far exceeded everyone's expectations."

Pond said they explored the ways in which they relate to each other and the obstacles that keep them from working together more closely.

"We relate to our neighbours on a level of government that has to provide similar services: sidewalks and streets and recreation facilities," said Pond.

And they also recognize they all share the same hub of services.

"It's called the Prince Rupert Regional Hospital but it's really the North Coast's hospital. It's as much Kitkatla's hospital as it is Prince Rupert's hospital," he said.

Oddly, some of the challenges that keep them from working together are the agencies that each community deals with at the federal and provincial levels, he added.

At the end of the day, Pond said they did come up with some ideas they would like to work on for the future.

"I believe we could see some of those rolled out in 2008," said Pond.

Building stronger relationships with its First Nations neighbours has been identified as a priority for the city both in past plans and, most recently, in the city's official community plan.

However, it is not the first meeting the city and district have had.

Last January, the Metlakatla Band Council kicked off 2007 by hosting the Prince Rupert Stakeholders monthly meeting in Metlakatla.

Metlakatla extended the invitation as a means to build positive relations with the Prince Rupert service providers and to update the group on the current activities of the Metlakatla First Nation.

The stakeholders represent an informal group of Prince Rupert and region service providers and local politicians who meet to share information in order to reduce possible duplication of programs and services as well as to create partnerships within the communities.

The Metlakatla venue provided an opportunity for each of the participating organizations to meet the Metlakatla Band Council and administrative executives.

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