Aboriginal relations minister speaks on bringing the local governments together

Ida Chong visited Kitimat and spoke of bringing the District and Haisla to the same table.

Ida Chong took a boat ride with Haisla Chief Councillor Ellis Ross to see firsthand the proposed areas for LNG projects, before speaking to the Kitimat business community at the Hirsch Creek Golf and Winter Club.

The Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliations’ day in the Kitimat area concluded with a Kitimat Chamber of Commerce luncheon, where she spoke of several issues, from the 2008 recession’s impacts on the province, to Family Day, to the desire to keep B.C. a safe place for foreign investment.

But speaking to the Sentinel following her presentation, it was bringing together the District of Kitimat with the Haisla community that stood as a priority for her and her ministry.

“More than anything I wanted to let them know if the province needed to come on board to help bring both jurisdictions together and talk about revenue sharing, economic opportunities and ideas, we’d do that,” she said.

She noted that the government can’t impose on the two jurisdictions, but that they can help bring the two sides together for government-to-government forums.

She did point out that such meetings were already taking place though.

“The fact that they’re having these conversations, I think bodes well for both communities,” she said.

Chief Councillor Ellis Ross said that there has been one meeting between his government and the District of Kitimat however it was an informal “ice breaker” dinner meeting where no actual issues were discussed.

He wasn’t sure exactly when everyone would be available for a second meeting.

He did say that no provincial ministry has had a hand in facilitating meetings and that he doesn’t expect there to be a provincial role when it comes to discussions between the local governments.

Prior attempts to establish a relationship using the treaty process was tried but Ross said those attempts fell apart.

“This is basically just a potential of starting up a new relationship. That’s all it is,” he said.

He said that just based on the dinner, there are a lot of common interests, but says the “devil’s in the details” for those kinds of discussions.

However he said things are much different than they were even five years ago as far as inclusion for First Nations, and the Haisla expect to be a part of everything from now on, he said.

Mayor Joanne Monaghan said the meeting between the Haisla and the District of Kitimat was a nice get-together to meet everyone and to learn about each other better.