Klahoose weigh legal options

Klahoose First Nation said development permit process was flawed from the start

The Klahoose First Nation is considering legal action after what it believes was a biased decision made by the Strathcona Regional District in turning down its marina application.

A development permit application from Klahoose Resort Limited Partnership (KRLP) to build a commercial marina in Squirrel Cove on Cortes Island was turned down by the regional district’s board of directors two weeks ago.

Kathy Francis, councillor for the Klahoose First Nation, said the process was flawed from the start.

“This most recent decision forces us to conclude that the SRD (Strathcona Regional District) is not interested in, or capable of, providing Klahoose with even the minimal standard of a fair, transparent process that complies with legislation,” Francis wrote. “We are examining all options to address these problems, including legal review of the SRD’s decision. We regret that our relationship has come to this place, but we see no other options based on the SRD’s conduct to date. In present circumstances we are compelled to advise that we do not view the SRD’s conduct and decision to be legally acceptable, or respectful of our people and rights, and we will take action to address these issues.”

Francis said the Klahoose got the impression that its project was being singled out by the regional district since the beginning when the regional district turned down the Klahoose’s offer to hold the public hearing in the applicant’s community. Instead, directors chose to hold the meeting in what some called a “neutral” location – the Gorge Hall.

“The SRD has repeatedly taken procedural steps that reflected a bias against KRLP, and a tendency to favour interests opposed to our application,” Francis writes in a letter to the regional district board.

Regional directors Brenda Leigh (Area D) and Gerald Whalley (Area A) both voted in favour of not holding the public hearing in the Klahoose community after receiving e-mails from people wishing to speak but who felt intimidated to speak out against the project in the applicant’s community.

Francis said that was insulting to the Klahoose and matters were made worse for the First Nation when the regional district removed Cortes director Noba Anderson (who supported the Klahoose) as chair of the hearing to avoid a perception of bias.

“This was remarkable as it shows that the SRD is prepared to publicly question the competence and objectivity of one of its own representatives,” Francis wrote.

The Klahoose were further disappointed by the board’s decision to not approve the marina project.

Whalley rejected the proposal, saying that he felt it was the boating community that would be most affected by the project and the BC Yacht Club opposed the project. Director Leigh thought the area should be protected.

While the majority of Cortes Islanders who spoke at the public hearing were in favour of the marina project, Leigh and Whalley did have support for their positions from the BC Yacht Club and some islanders.

Francis said the project would have been a boon to the community.