January 17, 2014
The Britannia Beach Community Centre was a fitting location for the 79 people who attended the Howe Sound Community Forum meeting held on Tuesday January 14th, 2014. The 1917 building has been well restored and maintained and a good reminder of this town’s mining past. Host Maurice Freitag, Area Director of the Squamish Lillooet Regional District, gave an update on the town that has tremendous potential. Director Freitag and the President of the Community Association hosted a tour of the waterfront after the forum which is now clear of old boats that have been plaguing the area.
Everyone was very pleased ten members of the Squamish Nation and one from Tsleil-Waututh Nation attended, including Chief Ian Campbell, Chief Bill Williams, three council members and two of the elders. Linda Williams joined by Chief Ian Campbell and Council Member Josh Joseph opened the event with traditional welcome and prayer. Elected officials from around Howe Sound were present, and a number of staff. MP John Weston, MLA Nicholas Simons from Sunshine Coast Powell River and MLA Jordan Sturdy West Vancouver/Sea to Sky were welcomed and had the opportunity to address the Forum and participate during the day. The balance of people in attendance were observers representing various non-profit organizations from around the sound. Susan Abs of Eclipse Consulting was hired to facilitate the jam packed agenda.
Chief Ian Campbell addressed those present, commenting that First Nations is always seeking new ways to engage in dialogue and these types of forums are valuable for increasing mutual understanding.
Following the last Forum hosted by the District of West Vancouver on September 25th, the communities were looking forward in anticipation to a response from the Province and the Federal Government to the request for a comprehensive land and marine planning for Howe Sound. MP John Weston reported he is still waiting on word from the Federal Finance Committee as to the success of the application for funding for a study submitted last fall. The Sunshine Coast Regional District received a letter from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans recommending that a Pacific Region staff member be involved but a representative was not able to attend. After listening to the discussions during the day, MP Weston did have suggestions of how to further engage the Federal government.
MLA Jordan Sturdy and Jeff Juthans, Land and Resource specialist from the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources Operations introduced staff from Victoria who offered a possible process that could lead towards a plan. The Cumulative Effects Assessment Process, which is still in the piloting phase was briefly explained and provided food for thought for those gathered. At this time, no resources or promises are being delivered by the Provincial Government, but feedback was asked for from the Forum members to see if this was a process that might be applicable to Howe Sound. Reaction from the forum members was this process will take too long as a plan is needed now considering all the proposed development for Howe Sound currently before them. Others felt it best to be positive and engage in the process rather than set higher expectations at this time. Consensus was built around the idea that the local governments can take the lead and start with the first step of any process which is to agree on a common vision and important values.
Byng Giraud, Project Manager for the company Woodfibre Natural Gas Ltd. gave a quick presentation and answered some questions about the company’s proposed LNG export facility. He was followed by Michelle Molnar, Environmental Economist & Policy Analyst from the Suzuki Foundation who gave a quick explanation of the Howe Sound Natural Capital Evaluation currently underway and a preview of the state of the art mapping of Howe Sound.
Offers were made by Squamish Nation and Bowen Island with Islands Trust to host the next forum and for that meeting to take place as soon as possible. The next meeting would focus solely on first steps towards planning, a common vision and important values for Howe Sound, much of which has already been expressed by the stakeholders present at the Future of Howe Sound Forum last April. In the meantime, the Province will need to decide if it is going to commit to a CEA process for Howe Sound and allocate the resources necessary in order to satisfy the collective voice of the Howe Sound Community.
CEA Framework Presentation