Monday, June 08, 2009

Podunk Below the Masthead Friday, June 5, 2009

Uniting the watchmen whatever the cost, a first hand look at the wind power story for the Northcoast and a new arrangement at the Chatham building highlight the Friday edition of the Daily News.

WATCHMEN OF THE COAST UNITE-- First Nations guardians and Watchmen from the Central and North coast gathered in Prince Rupert last week to examine better ways to manage fisheries policies and protect the coast from illegal fishing. The goal of the gathering is set up the groundwork to put in place a coastal network of Guardian programs to enforce and manage the fishery, a program that could cost in the millions of dollars to get underway. The program and it's background was examined in a front page story (see below).

Naikun Wind Power met the public in Prince Rupert last week, providing an update of their plans for development and fielding questions from a number of concerned groups, from crab fishermen to local residents. It was the first of their public information sessions, which now move over to the Charlottes for more discussion and examination.

The Chatham Building on 1st Avenue West, which is probably best known as the Museum of Northern British Columbia building has redesigned itself in a corporate form. As the Gitxaala Nation and the Museum became join owners of the property.

The building has now been divided into two strata lots, with the sale of one of the strata's to the Gixaala Nation, which accounts for 51.4 percent of the complex, that sale was used to significantly pay down the mortgage on the Museum's half of the building.

Both sides of the arrangement were quick to praise Prince Rupert Mayor Jack Mussallem for his support on behalf of the City of Prince Rupert in the transition. While the Museum will continue to remain in the current space that it makes use of, the Gitxaala half of the building will be used for offices, classrooms and training space for programs that the First Nation plans to embark on for its people. It's the first time that the Gitxaala Nation which is located sixty kilometres south of the city, has owned property in Prince Rupert, with a large number of their people living and working in Prince Rupert, the property will become the home of services and information for those that are living off reserve in Prince Rupert.

The sports section of the Friday paper featured a look at the Northwest Rugby season which was set to get underway over the weekend.

Total pages in the Friday paper (16)

Front page, headline story:

First Nations communities gathering for their second annual meeting
By George T. Baker
The Daily News
Friday, June 5, 2009
Page one

"Eyes and Ears of our Territories Working Together to Protect Our Lands and Waters".

First Nations community representatives from up and down the North and Central coast met this week at the Museum of Northern B.C. to discuss sound fishery policies and how to best protect the coast from illegal fishing.

The goal is to establish a framework toward constructing a Coastal Guardian Watchmen Network, which some aboriginal leaders and representatives in attendance hope will develop some enforcement bite.

The Coastal First Nations represented at the second annual meeting are from the North Coast, Central Coast and Haida Gwaii who are involved in community-based monitoring and stewardship. such as: First Nation Guardians, Watchmen, and Rangers.

Included in that group is Haida Fisheries Guardian, Robert Russ, who spoke to delegates about the Haida Fisheries Guardian Program and the need for greater monitoring of North Coast waters.

“To some degree I believe that we are moving forward," said Russ. .

"It's always going to be an ongoing process, so you are never going to be able to accommodate everybody, but as long as we keep moving forward instead of backwards, we are on a positive track."

Russ believes that a centralized force working together and sharing information will strengthen the ability of First Nations to help and sometimes enforce the federal fisheries act.

"I believe with the process as it's working right now, the only way to become stronger overall is to be unified. In order to do that we need to start a process where we develop the communication links," said Russ.

Russ said that, as he understood it, most of the aboriginal political bodies want to work closely with the department of fisheries and oceans, but that delegates were looking at ways of moving on without the DFO if need be.

At a time when several offshore projects including aquaculture, oil and eco-tourism are either in operation or being proposed for the upper B.C. coast, Art Sterrit, director of the Coastal First Nations, a regional alliance of 10 coastal First Nations from the North and Central Coast and Haida Gwaii, believed now was the time to move this program forward.

"Developments are putting pressure on the health of our ecosystems,' said Sterrit. "There has never been a more important time for strengthening our Guardian Watchmen programs; they are the eyes and ears on our lands and waters."

To get a network off the ground it is estimated that an annual budget would be in the millions.

Regardless of cost, Russ believed that having a first Nation-led network managing and enforcing legislation on the waters was needed.

We definitely need something unified coastwide where we enter the territory and they recognize who you are, what you do within that territory."

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