Monday, November 24, 2008

Seeking solutions and opportunities for First Nations residents

Chief Clarence Louie came north with a message of change, and the words of the leader of the Osoyoos Indian Band resonated well with North coast residents who took in his address at the Crest Hotel last week.

Louie who has been leading the Osoyoos band for 21 years and brought a high level of prosperity to the residents of the region, provided his blue print for change that he feels will provide an exciting future for First Nations people across British Columbia.

The Daily News provided highlights of his keynote presentation from Thursday as the front page story in Friday's paper as well as further background on the Together on the Coast sessions held at the Crest Hotel.


Clarence Louie shares message of financial independence during Together on the Coast
By George T. Baker
The Daily News
Friday, November 21, 2008

Pages one and two

Even with loud distracting music at one point breaking over the PA system, no head or eye turned away from Osoyoos Indian Band elected Chief Clarence Louie as he gave his address to a standing room-only crowd in the B.C. Room of the Crest Hotel.

"If you want to be a real warrior, you better not be on welfare. Business is the answer, not welfare," proclaimed Louie at yesterday's 'Together on the Coast' North Coast Sustainable Community Development Forum.

Such was the importance and magnetism of his message that it would have been hard to ignore even if there had been a hard-rock concert breaking out next-door.

For 21 years, Louie has been the elected chief of OIB. During that time, he has been credited with leading the OIB evolution from one of the poorest bands in Canada to one of the most vibrant economic forces in the Okanagan.

Louie was in Prince Rupert Thursday to talk with members of both the aboriginal and non-aboriginal community about what is keeping aboriginals behind in today's world.
He said the First Nations community is taking economic entrepreneurship much more seriously then it ever has before.

But he also pointed out that if First Nations businessmen wanted to be taken seriously, then 'Indian Time', the flippant term for being late, was not good enough, that tourism will be the bread-and-butter of future First Nation community prosperity, and that talking about money and how to make it will be key if aboriginals want to be players going forward.

"More and more in recent years we have - and we even had our own First Nations economic conference, which was just last January in Vancouver. We have had conferences on every social issue you can name but (First Nations) economic development conferences are happening more across the country."

Louie's words were not meant to be tough but poignant, that First Nations communities have the resources, talent and capacity to be more than just dependents on federal funding.

According to Louie, 98 per cent of federal funding is for social programs. He believes that what is wrong with reservation culture is that too much emphasis is put on creating social equity without looking at what underlies the inequity in the first place: economic inequity.

Louie believes that the best way for First Nations communities to move forward is to take the bull by the horns and become serious businessmen.

"The widespread economic gap should scare Canadians," said Louie.

"In the prisons, they are teaching our native prisoners to make teepees and drums. I don't know anyone who lives in a teepee. They need to be learning how to get a job."

And he believes it is the First Nations youth that is demanding action on the job front, which he hopes First Nations leaders are paying close attention to.

"That's what I love about our youth today. They are making employment an issue," said Louie.

Forum looks at the big picture
By George T. Baker
The Daily News
Friday, November 21, 2008

Pages one and three

Stakeholders were packed into the BC Room of the Crest Hotel Thursday to listen to panelists discuss a sustainable future on the North Coast.

Day 1 of 'Together on the Coast' brought a wide variety of speakers together to discuss topics including fisheries policy, the cruise industry and small business opportunities for First Nations.
"We really wanted the First Nations community to bring everyone together and everything that is going on in our area, some of the pressures on the environment that are coming on to the horizon," said North Coast-Skeena First Nations Stewardship Society president Bruce Watkinson.

Watkinson said, the forum provided an opportunity for stakeholders to could together to learn about each others' interests and start to open up the dialogue within different sectors.
"This is increasingly happening but the process is slow," said Watkinson.

"The typical way of government doing business is slowing things down, dealing with issues one-at-a-time, not recognizing that everything is connected."

"What we are trying to do is really push an agenda where integrated planning is the new standard of doing business and that we can talk about a multitude of interests in one forum and make sure that everything is accounted for and addressed in an integrated fashion."

Councillor Joy Thorkelson, who is also the union rep in Prince Rupert for the United Fishermen and Allied Workers Union, made an impassioned speech about how the Department of Fisheries and Oceans policies have, and will, affected local fishermen.

Thorkelson said that historically local fishermen, First Nations fishermen and sports fishermen have had their ability to catch fish minimized by policies of privatization.

"The fishing industry has been heavily impacted by DFO policies. Their policies have favoured 'canners' since the 1990s because dealing with individual fishermen was like herding cats," said Thorkelson.

Thorkelson was particularly critical of the current federal salmon fishing licensing system for BC, known as the 'Davis Plan' which she said has made it impractical to be a small operation fisher.

The Davis Plan policy set out for a two-level system of licencing based on salmon landings in the two previous years, and included later phases that provided for fleet reduction through a buyback program and licence retirement. According to a Canadian Council of Professional Fish Harvesters report in 2000, despite a demand from several fishermens' organizations for a system that would issue licences to fishermen, rather than boats but the plan kept the licence on the vessel. He later argued that had he licenced fishermen, it would have allowed a "select club" of fishermen to control the fishery

"What used to be free became restricted and (fishing) became a capital industry, which before 1967 (when the Davis Plan was devised) you didn't have to have a licence, a capital investment," said Thorkelson.

Cruise Development Officer Phil Westobey from the Prince Rupert Port Authority explained to guests about the potential of small business opportunities. He also noted four focal points used by cruise ship companies when deciding on ports of call.

"Marine operations and costs, Identity, onshore facilities and shore excursions - and a new concern, which is fuel consumption and how a port fits into an itinerary," he said.

The forum continues today, when the keynote speaker will be Robin Sydneysmith who will give a presentation on the summary of climate change impacts that compel integrated marine planning.

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