The Strathcona Regional District has set a date for a consultation session with the Tlowitsis but the meeting – to discuss the First Nation’s reserve proposal – will be behind closed doors.
At a board meeting last Thursday, directors voted to host a Community to Community (C2C) forum with the Tlowitsis on Jan. 13.
Also in attendance will be representatives from Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) to explain the federal Additions to Reserve process the Tlowitsis is going through in an effort to establish a reserve in the York Road area.
Dave Leitch, CAO of the regional district, said the meeting will not be open to the public.
“There will be a number of presenters and it will be an in-camera meeting,” Leitch said. The meeting will be closed to the public under the authority of section 90(2)(b) of the Community Charter which is “the consideration of information received and held in confidence relating to negotiations between the municipality and a provincial government or the federal government or both, or between a provincial government or the federal government or both and a third party.”
But Area D Director Brenda Leigh said it’s unfair to her constituents, some of whom would neighbour the reserve site, to be kept in the dark with little information.
“I think that the public from Area D need to be consulted, there hasn’t been anything at all,” Leigh said. “I think it’s wrong to close it to the public, it’s wrong. It would be an opportunity for them to hear both sides of the issue.”
Leitch told Leigh that its typical practice to close a C2C forum to the public but added that regional district staff are working to have INAC representatives come out to engage with the Area D community.
Leigh wanted to ensure that happened and passed a motion requesting staff invite INAC to host a community public meeting with Area D residents, prior to the Jan. 13 C2C forum, to discuss the Tlowitsis’ reserve proposal.
The motion passed, although there was some disagreement as to whether or not the invitation had already been denied.
“INAC believes it’s not the Tlowitsis’ job to go out and consult, INAC believes it’s Area D’s job,” Leitch said. “They feel it’s Area D’s responsibility to do the public consultation, therefore we need to have discussions with INAC first to have communications as to what this process is. Which is why we have the process with C2C first.”
But Leigh said under the federal government Additions to Reserve policy that, because it is up to the federal government to either approve or deny the Tlowitsis’ reserve application, the federal government itself has a consultation component built in.
“They’ve sent me numerous emails saying ‘we’re coming to consult this fall with Area D’ but they’re not showing up,” Leigh said. “To not consult the residents of Area D, who will be living with a federal government decision, is disrespectful of my community and it’s wrong.”
The Tlowitsis has applied to the federal government to establish a reserve off of York Road for up to 150 of its members over the next 10 to 30 years.