"We have a position against gas and oil and we are saying 'no' and I want to make it very clear that the Haida Nation is not represented by Herb Pond - we speak for ourselves," -- Arnie Bellis vice president of the Council for the Haida Nation, setting the record straight as far as the Haida are concerned.
Mayor Herb Pond's recent public advocacy for oil tankers and oil exploration off the North coast hasn't exactly won him any followers on Haida Gwaii.
Arnie Bellis, the vice president of Council for the Haida Nation was quick to offer up a contrary opinion on the issue of oil development and any potential increase of oil tanker traffic in waters off the coast of the Charlottes, taking the Mayor to task over any ideas that he may be speaking for all communities of the North Coast.
For his part, the Mayor suggested that it was the Daily News that provided the inaccurate interpretation of his words that has caused the backlash from Haida Gwaii, confirming that he knows he doesn't speak for the entire North coast, Pond went on to say he was pretty upset with the headline of the September 22nd edition of the paper when he read it as well.
It probably however, was not the first time in recent weeks where media coverage has caused him to be upset with a quote or revelation relayed through the city's newspapers.
Of late he's been what is known as hot copy for the local media, as he finds himself under the microscope for his past comments on any number of local issues, we imagine he would probably be a little concerned about finding himself having to defend words that were put in his mouth for him.
When you're a politician however, you have to be aware that interpretations of your commentary will be a constant part of your day to day routine, the choice of a wrong word or an inference on an issue can cause you no shortage of trouble later down the line, requiring clarifications, further details and even the occasional mea culpa.
The percolating issue was examined in Monday's Daily News.
We can speak for ourselves CHN tells city mayor
By George T. Baker
The Daily News
Monday, September 29, 2008
Pages one and three
Arnie Bellis, the vice president of Council for the Haida Nation (CHN) is making it clear that Prince Rupert Mayor Herb Pond does not speak for the whole North Coast.
Bellis made the comments one week after Pond announced that he was in favour of oil tanker and pipeline work in the region - as long as the environmental assessments prove that no damage to the environment would come from tanker work.
"We have a position against gas and oil and we are saying 'no' and I want to make it very clear that the Haida Nation is not represented by Herb Pond - we speak for ourselves," said Bellis.
Mayor Herb Pond said that he would support Prince George Mayor Colin Kinsley and Kitimat Mayor Rick Wozney's public call for oil tanker and pipeline approval for the Central and North Coast.
The mayors claimed last week that there are billions of dollars waiting to be spent in the region if tankers and pipelines were approved by the federal and provincial governments.
They also said that it was the voice of Vancouver and Victoria-based environmental groups that were driving the issue and not Northern voices.
The comments enraged Dogwood Initiative, a Victoria-based environmental group, and has apparently rankled Bellis, a prominent member of the Haida Nation.
"The word delusional comes to my mind when I hear that the mayors will speak for us," said Bellis. "Through our own system of governance, so this is not my singular opinion, our position is 'no' to gas and oil."
Pond responded Monday morning by saying that he agreed with Bellis, that he did not speak for the entire North Coast and that it was only the headline in the Daily News that said he did. He had not said it himself.
"After I read that headline I was upset too," said Pond. "I was pretty clear. What we said was that we thought the people of the North Coast were capable in making that decision."
Many years ago, former B.C.-based Liberal federal environment minister David Anderson led a successful lawsuit against the U.S. government to prevent tankers laden with Alaskan oil from entering the B.C. coast.
The U.S. congress agreed and the two countries entered into an understanding that U.S. oil vessels would stay 70 nautical miles offshore. He was then able to convince former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau to impose a moratorium on oil tanker traffic along the B.C. Central and North Coast.
Leases for oil and gas exploration in the Queen Charlotte Islands are owned primarily by Shell, Chevron and Petro-Canada. Under the NAFTA free trade agreement established in 1993, multinational corporations have rights of supercession over local governments. That means the companies can sue local governments for establishing environmental laws.
In 2002, the Haida Nation filed a legal claim to Haida Gwaii, the Haida's traditional name for the Queen Charlotte Islands. This was partly done as a reaction to the threat posed to the 1972 moratorium.
The claim would include all land, water and sub-sea rights to Haida Gwaii, and all areas within a 360-km radius. Bellis believes Pond should respect the Haida's right for self governance and representation.
"Instead of commenting for our areas he just needs to look after his own back pond," said Bellis.