Saturday, November 08, 2008

First Nations and North Coast municipalities work out protocol on social issues

“We were neighbours without really knowing our neighbours,” -- Port Edward Mayor Dave McDonald explaining how he hopes the new protocol agreement will change the relationship between North coast governing bodies.

Five First Nations bands joined forces with the City of Prince Rupert and District of Port Edward this week, to sign a protocol agreement to work on a number of issues that impact upon all of the participating communities.

It’s not the first time that the different groups have entered into the land of good intentions only to see the process falter, but this time they stress that they believe the final result will be different.

Among some of their larger concerns of the collective are the fishery and the need for strategic planning for it; a drug and alcohol treatment centre; the Tsimshian Access initiative; and a community ferry service.

The Thursday Daily News featured the protocol as their front page, headline story.

Protocol seeks united front to push for drug treatment centre, ferry, access link and more
By George T. Baker

Prince Rupert Daily News
Thursday, November 6, 2008
Pages one and two

It might seem like another protocol but the Community-to-Community signatories claim this one will matter- and will be followed up upon.

Five North Coast First Nation bands, the City of Prince Rupert and the district of Port Edward signed a protocol Tuesday that will see all sides work as one unit in order to tackle some of the social issues affecting all North Coast residents.

Gitxaala’s elected Chief Elmer Moody said that the views of elected band councilors had changed because of the meetings.

“Coming into the process, there was a bit of apprehension. I didn’t know what a working relationship could look like with the regional district, the City of Prince Rupert as well as Port Ed,” said Moody

The impetus for the agreement is viewed as needing to bring together a stronger voice to speak to senior levels of government; hoping that funding for much-needed projects can be acquired faster than they have in the past.

“I think, taking a look at it, our areas of jurisdiction amongst First Nations communities is a little bit different than that of the city and the regional district but by the same token we’ve come to the understanding there are services that we rely on and that was our issue and area of commonality,” said Moody.

To begin with, the Community-to-Community group will focus on four main needs for the North Coast: fishery and strategic planning; a drug and alcohol treatment centre; the Tsimshian Access Initiative; and a community ferry service.

According to Prince Rupert Mayor Herb Pond and Port Edward Mayor Dave McDonald, they equally had little idea whether or not this process would be worth much. But the cost of not doing it could have been too high if they had not.

“We went from no concept as to what (this protocol) might look like, just an agreement to getting together and talk, to maybe we could build a protocol, and then today signing that protocol,” said Prince Rupert Mayor Herb Pond.

McDonald said that the district of Port Edward was originally apprehensive about the actual value of meeting with First Nations councils and Prince Rupert on common issues. But he said his mind was changed after the first meeting.

“We were neighbours without really knowing our neighbours,” said McDonald. “But now we’ve been able to make contacts and are now able to get in touch with each other more. If there is an issue that has anything to do with any one in the group, then we can all get together and give them a hand to see what we can do to bring those (needed) services to the community,” said McDonald.

This was the third Community-to-Community meeting that has been encouraged through funding by the Union of British Columbia Municipalities. The previous two meetings worked as stages, building from meeting in the first place to working on an agreement, to finally signing a protocol at Chances Gaming Centre on Tuesday.

“Now we see that the relationship between cities and communities is getting to be as one big structure that we can deal with the same common issues,” said Gitga’at nation jack Clifton.

Lax Kw’alaams, councilor Eugene Bryant said that this was a 30 year vision from is father, who thought as long ago as the 1970’s that there were answerable questions that were waiting for answers.

“How do we do it, how do we get together? What are we going to leave behind for our present and future generations? What are they going to have? The strengths that we have I see that all the people participating at this table is that we all belong to the coast. Our First Nations brothers and sisters we have a lot of things in common, but at the same token so did the non-First Nations who have enjoyed the sea resources as we did for thousands of years.”

Bryant, Clifton and Moody said they are not concerned about a potential change a city council on Nov. 155 stripping away all the work that was accomplished with the protocol. To them, the work down with Community-to-Community should carry over to the next council.

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