Building the Haisla-Kitimat relationship a big takeaway from resources forum

Learning how to move forward on relationship building between the District and the Haisla a big takeaway from resources forum.

In Phil Germuth’s first real excursion out of Kitimat in an official capacity, the mayor tackled affordable housing, pressed for information from liquefied natural gas (LNG) proponents, and took in a brief overview of the future of First Nations reconciliation.

Small stuff, really.

This took place in Prince George at the Premier’s Natural Resources Forum, which ran this week, and Germuth gave an almost exhausting list of important knowledge gleaned over just a few days.

A presentation on the topic of First Nation reconciliation was among Germuth’s highlights.

“One of the real things that came out of that was more than the federal government or the provincial government, it’s really municipal government’s that have to start that,” he said on the reconciliation process.

Germuth and Kitimat’s Chief Administrative Officer Ron Poole met with Haisla Nation Chief Councillor Ellis Ross during the event as well. Ross was there speaking on a panel about Aboriginal issues.

Germuth is aware relationship building is not a quick process.

“It’s nothing that’s ever going to happen overnight. You have to build trust. Things have been done so wrong for so long, so it’s nothing you’re going to change overnight,” he said.

Ross told the Sentinel that he sees the early work beginning on rebuilding the relationship with the District of Kitimat but agrees it’s a long process.

He said over his term on council he’s seen a lot of success working with industries and the province directly but work with municipalities hasn’t materialized.

“I’ve heard that talk before from previous District of Kitimat councils,” he said. “It can’t just be a relationship built on words and talk. It’s got to have substance.”

However on the other issue of reconciliation being a responsibility of municipalities as well, Ross hasn’t seen that perspective before.

“To be honest I’ve never considered it that way, and that was the first time I’ve ever heard that type of statement,” he said.

The suggestion came from a speaker from the MacDonald-Laurier Institute. Ross said he highly respects the work from the Institute but was surprised.

“Nobody really knows what reconciliation means, there’s no definition, no real practice or policy around it,”  said Ross. “It’s one of those terms that gets thrown around a lot but when you ask someone exactly what it means…nobody knows.”

Beyond the topic of relationship building it was several packed days of networking and information for Kitimat’s mayor.

On the topic of LNG — it being a natural resources forum after all — Germuth said he did talk to representatives from several companies, sharing concern on the low price of oil, and talked to Chevron specifically about community murmur that there’s been little work done on the project lately.

The answer, he said, was the company had slowed down with the arrival of Woodside Petroleum taking on the stake from Apache, and that transition means time is required to re-organize, resulting in that slowdown in work.

As for the price of oil, the answer Germuth heard was projects are built for the long term, and not on the price of oil and any one time.

That’s the same message Poole took as well.

Poole said it had been six years since he went to this forum and it’s doubled in size in that time.

With LNG the topic he was most concerned with he said he enjoyed a minister’s take on the subject.

“[A] federal minister said it best, he said ‘LNG is like the Marsha Brady of the resource world. She has everything going for her.’” said Poole.“But what was good to hear, prevalent throughout [the forum]…was regardless of the oil prices, they still felt some of these projects were going.”

Forums like these help government’s like Kitimat keep in the loop on what could be coming in the near future, and in turn keeps them prepared.

“You always hear people say ‘oh, Kitimat doesn’t know what’s going to hit it.’” he said. “We actually do know what’s going to hit us and we know we’re going to be busy, and we know we’re going to be rushing, but I think in many senses there’s a lot that we’re doing right now trying to draw that picture as best as possible,” he said. “We’re trying to do the best we can.”