REPORTING · 3rd December 2010
Chief Moody was patient, 4 years patient, waiting for replies to the plans submitted to the Ministry of Forests. Last night, December 2nd, his people removed the Gill Netter blocking access to the barge loading facility at Oona on the south end of Porcher Island. It took this action to get Minister Pat Bell to agree to meet and address their concerns.
The situation that developed isn’t even a dispute; it is a lack of communication from the government. The Gitxaala Nation of Kitkatla has been filing the required paperwork to have their voices heard in the log harvesting process. The issues go back many years, decades, when the Gitxaala Nation didn’t have the ability or skills to address their concerns with the government and forest tenure process. Five years ago, however, they began filling out the paperwork to participate in what the Provincial Government referred to as a co-existence model. The intent was for ‘quiet enjoyment and the ability to co-exist’, claimed Chief Moody.
First, in 2005, they submitted what the government then termed an ‘Operational Plan’. This was apparently left without comment or response until the government changed their entire structure of dealing with these plans. Next the Gitxaala filed documents with the new terminology, a ‘Stewardship Plan’. Once again this sat without comment for over a year and a half. As Chief Moody described it, “they kept telling us it was going to administrative review.”
Triumph Timber Ltd has been harvesting in the area and has many harvest sites in the Coastal Rain Forest. According to Moody when the forest and range agreement expired last spring, when there was an opportunity to be considered the government again ignored them claiming there was no ability or purpose. Moody and his people are worried the logging contractors working in their traditional territories are high grading the Cedar.
This spring the Provincial Government closed the Ministry’s Prince Rupert Forestry Offices. This further complicated the issues for the Gitxaala, and more recently a new ministry was designed to handle the discussions and negotiations called Ministry of Natural Resource Operations. On October 28, 2010 they finally met with a representative from the Terrace Ministry of Forests who indicated a response would be coming in a few days. Nothing happened, no response, no further communications. So the Gitxaala parked a fishing vessel, the Katrina Lesley, in such a manner as to obstruct the logging and shipping operations of Triumph Timber.
“Look, they’re pissed off enough that they are putting up a blockade. They’ve been banging their heads against the wall”, stated David Currie the Public Affairs Officer for the Ministry of Natural Resource Operations, “They were sick of doing that so they took a different tactic. Obviously the Government doesn’t like; no one likes seeing that happen, so that’s why we’re coming back to the table.”
Currie confirmed a meeting is being set up with Minister Bell and that it will be taking place this next week.
Chief Moody was pleased and they have removed the vessel from interfering with Triumph Timber’s operations. He agreed they did not want to take this action but were left with no other opportunities to resolve their concerns, “our patience had run out.”
Currie added, “Now we can kind of have a meaningful discussion without a blockade in place to move forward with their concerns.
The Oona Bay Harbour where the blocade of the logging facilities took place this past week. - Photo by Min of Forests
Photo from Google Earth show some of the logging areas and roads at Oona on Porcher Island