Sunday, November 08, 2009

Podunk Below the Masthead, Friday, November 6, 2009

Some thoughts from the Chief Councillor of Lax Kw'alaams, more on the upcoming Judicial inquiry into the Fraser River sockeye fishery and the on again, off again, on again H1N1 clinic for Prince Rupert, some of the items of note from the Friday news cycle.

Daily News, Front page, headline story
LAX KW'ALAAMS CHIEF COUNCILLOR TALKS ABOUT PLANS FOR HIS BAND-- With election day almost here for those casting votes in the Lax Kw'alaams elections, the Daily News provided a front page outline of the current Chief Councillor John Helin, offering up a review of some of his past activities and where he would like to take the community into the future.

Monica Lamb-Yorski provides some background on the recent announcement by the Federal Government of the creation of a Judicial inquiry on the Fraser river sockeye fishery, our Podunkian portal first brought you details of that announcement with this article from Thursday.

Organizers of the upcoming Northern BC Winter Games put out the call for 1000 billets for those that are attending the games from all corners of Northern BC. Glen Hauptman, Operations Manager for the games, provided some details on what is required and the process in place for those that wish to provide accommodations for the visiting athletes in February.

The sports section had some background on the announcement that the TNT basketball tournament scheduled for Prince Rupert this weekend had been cancelled, that after the Kitamaat teams entered withdrew from the competition and the Senior Mens division was cancelled as well.

(Daily News Archive Articles for November 6)

The Northern View
Saturday H1N1 clinic proceeding as scheduled in Prince Rupert-- With a bit of confusion in place on Thursday, Northern Health decided on Friday that the cancelled flu clinic of Saturday would be reinstated due to the arrival of more doses of the vaccine (see article here)

CFTK TV 7 News
Rupert Flu Clinic Reinstated-- Details on the Northern Health announcement to go ahead with Saturday's flu clinic, after previously cancelling the clinic (see article here)

CFTK TV 7 News
A SNCIRE Attempt to Reinvent the Northwest Economy-- A non profit organization in the Northwest appeals to Ottawa and Victoria to provide some assistance in creating new economic opportunities in the Northwest (see article here)

CBC Radio Northern British Columbia, Daybreak North
Counting salmon-- The CBC interviews biologist and long time critic of fish farming Alexandra Morton, seeking out her thoughts on the recently announced judicial inquiry in the Fraser sockeye fishery (listen to interview here)

CBC Radio Northern British Columbia, Daybreak North
Taking it to the highest court-- A discussion with David Luggi, the Tribal Chief for the Carrier Sekani, who outlines his thoughts on the pending Supreme Court decision regarding the water uses of the Nechako River (listen to interview here)

Daily News, Front page, headline story
Lax Kw'alaams Chief Councillor talks about plans for his band
By George T. Baker
The Daily News
Friday, November 6, 2009

John Helin has spent the past two years as the Chief Councillor of Lax Kw’alaams.

What has become clear to him is that the challenges his community faces are not insurmountable.

Calling life in Port Simpson a challenge would sell his community short. There is a future, Helin contends, and if you don’t believe it, he wants those in Port Simpson and the Tsimshian living abroad to have a look.

Helin has framed his campaign in familiar terms: transparent governance, economic opportunity and community unity.

“Everybody knows the challenges that we face, being where we are situated,” commented Helin.

Helin thinks one of the very important opportunities that are available for his community is closed containment aquaculture. Helin took a group of local leaders over to Vancouver Island last weekend to look at the system that is in place.

There is a caveat that will always come into play when it comes to First Nations economic opportunity.

“If they can take care of our environmental concerns then it’s a natural fit for us,” said Helin.

“We are in very preliminary stages. We are going through a process that is very different for us… where people want to sit down and talk to us and come to an agreement with us on how to make this work.”

As was shown last week, the Coast Tsimshian (Metlakatla and Lax Kw’alaams) are willing to fight hard for what they perceive to be in their best interests. While that can be misunderstood in Prince Rupert, where often social anxieties can be exacerbated when economic opportunities are on the line, Helin said he is not afraid to take a stand on what he believes his community must do.

Add litigation to the things that Helin feels band council must do. Lax Kw’alaams has just wrapped up a B.C. Court of Appeal hearing that could guide the direction of commercial fishing on the North Coast. If the decision goes Lax Kw’alaams’ way, that couLd mean Tsimshian fishermen would have priority over non-Aboriginal fishermen on the water.

For Helin, it represents another opportunity to marry the Port Simpson fish plant with raw fish product provision.

“If we can put our people to work 12 months of the year at the fish plant, that would be a big cog in our wheels,” said Helin.

These are all best case scenarios. A closed containment system would likely cost Lax Kw’alaams in the $100s of millions. An investor would likely have to be brought in, just like an investor has been brought in for a potential purchase of the Watson Island pulp mill.

But the opportunity could extend beyond dollars and cents. There is a socially cohesive aspect to what Helin would like to accomplish. And according to him, that starts with breaking down old fences that have kept people apart.

Helin believes that for too long the way forward for some has been to focus on dividing the Lax Kw’alaams communities along family and tribal lines.

“This has not worked in the past and simply wastes critical energy needed to move forward. Now we are in a new era, where we are beginning to take economic power and assert our Aboriginal rights.”

Part of the reason for this assertion is the claim by other Tsimshian nations over the area that Lax Kw’alaams considers their own – of note, Kitkatla’s claim to the Port lands – lands which Helin has remained steadfast in maintaining are traditional Lax Kw’alaams territory.

Helin said that the community members must work together to defend that.

“Political tactics aimed at creating dissension through fear mongering serve no purpose. Leadership is about defining a collective future -creating opportunities and a bigger pie for all members to share in.”

But he will have to face some political brinkmanship if he is to fend off the man he replaced one term ago – Gary Reece.

Reece wasn’t willing to criticize Helin’s time as Chief Councillor.

“It’s hard to say how well [Helin] has done. Two years is a short while. You don’t get very much accomplished in two years. It is such a short time and things go by fast, and things that you have taken time to work on take time to take place,” said Reece.

Time is something band council has been accused of not giving, when it comes to secondary education.

Chief Councillor candidate Malcolm Sampson has said that post-secondary students from Port Simpson are not funded for long enough to finish their degrees.

Sampson vowed to help students with their education for four full years, rather than the three that is offered now.

Helin said it’s the high number of people applying for funds that causes the band to cut members off.

“We have a limited amount of funding for post-secondary education. Our way of addressing that is a priority system and we put a limit on how many months a student can access the funding,” explained Helin.

If re-elected, Helin isn’t expected to change the formula.

Where he is expected to change things is through accountability. Helin promises that within the next month, a first-of-its-kind community website will be unveiled. This will provide membership with secure and confidential online access to Band financial statements, council meeting minutes, and the ability to watch Band Council meetings live over the internet. Council meetings will also be moved to a physically larger space so that community members can sit in on Band Council meetings.

Will it be enough? Lax Kw’alaams voters will have to decide November 15.

No comments: