Chair of public hearing removed to avoid bias

In light of recent events at Strathcona Regional District board meetings, one director suggested the board attend a workshop

  • Jul. 16, 2013 6:00 a.m.

In light of recent events at Strathcona Regional District board meetings, one director suggested the board attend a workshop to get a better understanding of aboriginal culture.

Relations between the Klahoose First Nation and Cortes Islanders have been put under the microscope since the regional district board chose to decline the Klahoose’s invitation to hold a public meeting for the First Nation’s proposed marina project at the Klahoose’s multi-purpose centre.

Cortes Director Noba Anderson suggested that the board attend a workshop, Building Bridges Through Understanding the Village, put on by Kathi Camilleri.

“This is in part due to the fallout from a board decision,” Anderson said at the July 10 board meeting but added the workshop would not deal with the public hearing.

“It’s simply about building bridges with the Cortes community. It was propelled perhaps by recent events but in no way specific to that. This is a standard workshop Kathi Camilleri has created.”

The workshop is a healing program that aims to educate participants on Canada’s policy of assimilation and First Nations history, culture and traditions.

But Quadra Island Director Jim Abram was concerned that directors, by attending the workshop, could be violating the rules of local government that prohibit elected officials from receiving any new information relating to a bylaw after a public hearing and before it has received third reading and adoption.

“The legal information we’ve received is that until you have adopted the bylaw, you should refrain from any discussion to do with it,” Abram said.

But Anderson said the workshop, which is expected to go ahead Aug. 9 and is open to the public, is unrelated to the public hearing.

“It certainly never occurred to me that there was any connection between this and (the) bylaw,” Anderson said.

Directors asked Acting Chief Administrative Officer Tom Yates for advice, who said he did not foresee any problems.

“I don’t think a director attending this workshop would jeopardize the public hearing process,” Yates said. “My understanding in reading this was it’s not related to that per se. It’s about ways of restoring and bringing cultural understanding, that type of thing.”

Director and Campbell River City Coun. Mary Storry agreed with Yates.

“We have a director that’s asking for some help,” Storry said. “I don’t think she’s (Camilleri) going to wade into that bylaw. I don’t think it will even come close to what she’s discussing. I really think it’s two different things and I really think it’s the least we could do.”

Still, Abram said it wasn’t Camilleri he was concerned about.

“I absolutely agree Kathi Camilleri will not bring this up, but that’s not to say someone from the audience won’t bring it up and there it is – that’s input,” Abram said. “I would hate like heck to go through this process we’ve gone through these past few months and jeopardize (the marina proposal) with this feel-good workshop when we can do it a month or two later.”

As a compromise, Storry made a motion that the regional district spend $1,200 to bring Camilleri to Cortes to host the Building Bridges workshop but that the four electoral directors (Anderson, Abram, Brenda Leigh and Gerald Whalley), who will vote on the Klahoose proposal, only be allowed to attend the workshop if the bylaw for the marina is completed before the meeting.

The public hearing into the Klahoose’s marina project is scheduled for July 24 at 1 p.m. at the Gorge Hall on Cortes.

After that, the bylaw would still need to receive third reading and adoption which could potentially happen at the Aug. 7 regional district board meeting, which would allow electoral directors to attend the Aug. 9 Building Bridges workshop.