Directors of the Strathcona Regional District (SRD) are feeling left out of key government consultations and conversations ranging from fisheries to local Indigenous treaty processes.
At their Aug. 17 meeting, the SRD board received correspondence from the federal government on the transition plans to open-net salmon farming. Campbell River Director Andy Adams expressed his frustration that the dates for meetings changed without adequate notice, and that the scheduling changes made it difficult to be able to send attendees to meetings.
“It is extremely disappointing that the dates for these important discussions are constantly changing at the last minute with no consultation,” Adams said. “I can’t help but think that this is to limit the engagement for these sessions… maybe the rationale for the continued changes in dates is that they don’t want to hear what we have to say.”
Cornfield suggested that the board designate an attendee for the meetings, saying that “the world is run by those who show up.”
“This has a huge economic impact to the entire regional district and North Island,” he said, adding that he wants to “make sure that we hear the presentations so we can question them and give responses back. I think what we’ve got is a pseudo-attempt at engaging.”
To be more involved in the process, the board moved to “formally participate” and that one elected representative and one staff member be delegated to attend the meetings and report back.
A similar issue came from the provincial government regarding the recent transfer of land to the We Wai Kum First Nation. On Aug. 11, the province announced the return of 2,276 hectares of territorial lands to the First Nation to help with economic activities. The regional district directors had no issue with the fact that the transfer happened, just that they felt they were left out of the consultation process leading up to the decision.
“We haven’t even seen a map of the area,” said Campbell River director Charlie Cornfield. “I beleive it is in Director (Gerald) Whalley’s Area A, but I don’t know, because we don’t have a map.”
Cornfield sits as the SRD representative on the treaty process for the We Wai Kum First Nation. He said neither he nor Whalley were notified of any meetings or invited to participate, “even though the land affected is in his jurisdiction.
“This is one more example of all parties involved in this… ignoring local government once again,” he said. “It is entirely disrespectful and it is not the way things should happen. It’s not about whether we support or don’t support reconciliation, it’s about the proper process.”
Director Jim Abram moved that the chair write a letter to the the province to voicing the directors’ “displeasure” about the process.
Zeballos director Julie Colbourne asked what the purpose of the letter would be, given that the board has voiced its concerns about this previously with seemingly no results.
“The squeaky wheel gets the grease,” Abram said.