[The following is an opinion piece of my own as a First Nations person and lover of good governance and it is not necessarily the stated opinion of the Huu-ay-aht First Nations government, nor any other organization where I am a member or representative.]
Since before the time of Confederation, First Nations have struggled to find their place in British Columbia and in Canada. The journey has been difficult enough for many of our leaders to throw up their hands and focus ever inward. All too often, this is to the detriment of true and reciprocal reconciliation between the peoples and communities in Canada. Fortunately for all of us, this is beginning to change in real and unexpected ways.
The struggle for recognition and respect has been so central an aspect of First Nations’ common identity that it has come to affect how we measure every decision we make. When it comes to matters that impact a wide array of disparate interests that intersect Canadian society, the internal politics of indigenous communities can often bewilder and frustrate. This is as much a challenge for indigenous leaders as it is everyone else, and it is one that must be addressed by the former as much as, if not more than, the latter. This is the challenge facing leaders in true, mutual, and trust-building reconciliation.
The key to successful reconciliation is not only the willingness of Crown governments to publicly acknowledge our deeply troubled past, and to work in good faith with indigenous communities to meaningfully address the challenges of moving forward, but also for those same indigenous communities to publicly acknowledge that collaboration and to signal a willingness and impetus to forgive.
To some degree, this is already happening. First Nations communities everywhere are not only increasing their reach and their grasp, but also awakening to the universal challenges of peace, order and good governance. As indigenous communities increase their legal, political and economic capacities, they are coming upon the hard decisions to be made in a world of scarcity.
In the face of those decisions, First Nations leaders and their constituents are learning that they have much in common with the rest of the Canadian polity: a robust and vigorous difference of opinion.
It is in that difference of opinion where we discover both the great strength and the troubling difficulty facing indigenous leaders today. The often-combative politics of identity have penetrated so deep into the political culture of indigenous communities that certain opinions are being regarded not as mere difference of opinion but rather as traitorous to the indigenous identity.
As indigenous communities develop politically and economically, the politics of identity should rightly diminish in the hearts and minds of indigenous peoples. It comes now to whether and to what degree aboriginal communities and their leaders embrace this new vigorous democratic diversity, or quash it in a fearful defense of what is known and what is comfortable.
Success at all levels of government increasingly depends on well-functioning communication, coordination and cooperation at all levels on a global stage. In a world where a drop in the demand for timber in the markets of Shanghai can have real consequences for the culture and language budget of an indigenous community in BC, true and reciprocal reconciliation is ever more important for all Canadians everywhere. We are up to the task, so let’s get to the important and uncomfortable work of respectful political discourse.
At around 3:30 or 4:00am on Sunday, I found out that I was fortunate enough to be re-elected to Huu-ay-aht First Nations Council. In the past few days, I have reflected on what has come before and the dreams I have for the future. This election was conducted very professionally on all accounts. The Election Commissioner’s work, however, is not yet done. While there was a clear winner for the Chief-Councillor — congratulations Robert Dennis Sr. — and for the first three of five Council positions, there was a three-way tie for the last two seats. Truly, every vote counts!
There will be a run-off election on July 18th (warning PDF link) between the three who tied for the last two seats.
Regardless, I look forward very much to working with the new Council, and I look back and very much appreciate the work done by the one before.
It has been an honour and a privilege to serve my community, and re-election makes me pause and consider the good-fortune and appreciation I have for being able to serve once more.
I thank everyone who had the courage and fortitude to run for office, and I thank those who took the time out of their day to vote. If ever there was an example of every vote counting, we now see the reason.
I thought I would take the time to give out a bit more information regarding certain parts of my platform. In this document, I’ll talk about my experience and accomplishments in both relationship-building and in economic development. The reason I’m writing about these items is that I was assigned to work on them as a part of my portfolio. Every Councillor, when they are elected, is generally assigned various duties and they usually lead the discussions on those topics with the rest of their colleagues on Huu-ay-aht First Nations Council.
In this letter, I’ll speak to the work being done in these areas, the things we’ve achieved and why I think they’re important. I’ll also write about what I think we need to do in the future to be successful in those areas.
Thanks for reading!
The Huu-ay-aht First Nations owns and operates several businesses: an active forestry company, various commercial fishing licences, a gravel operation, the Pachena Bay Campground and the Restaurant & Store in Bamfield. In this past term of office, we have consolidates them all under an arms-length business wing called the Huu-ay-aht Group of Businesses, and have used corporations and limited partnerships to ensure that our investments are protected from any liabilities. Our business wing is operated at “arms-length” from our government because there often arises a conflict between political interests and business interests. In order to have the best opportunity for a well-run set of businesses, we have a structure that separates business decision-making from much political interference. Council retains overall strategic direction of our businesses, and chooses whether to invest in them or a new business as a part of that, but day-to-day and quarter-to-quarter decisions are made by dedicated business managers and a business-minded board of directors.
When I was re-elected in 2011, our main business of forestry was suffering significant losses. Due in most part to the financial crisis of 2008 in the United States, we were losing upwards of $1.2 million. In the four years I have worked with our business team and have focused on turning this around. I am proud to say that our forestry business has made a significant profit in the past two years with has seen a net payout in the form of stumpage taxes and profit-sharing to the Nation of approximately $1.2 million with more to come. Forestry has been our main driver for revenue, profit and employment opportunities, but we have done more to diversify our options as well.
Our economic development strategic plan has us actively pursuing service, hospitality and tourism opportunities. For instance, we have expanded and enhanced our campground at beautiful Pachena Bay. We have also acquired the Market and Store at the heart of our neighbouring village, Bamfield. From that central location, we have expanded our interests into operating the government wharf in East Bamfield and are actively looking to acquire more property and businesses in Bamfield. Also, I have just received word that our sustainable, run-of-the-river power project just received a water licence which is the vital step before we can begin to build and generate sustainable energy which we can sell for good revenue to BC Hydro.
It is only by building and creating profitable businesses that we can create long-term, sustainable job opportunities for our people. In business, we have to ensure that we are creating value for our main investors – the Huu-ay-aht First Nations itself. We can do this by making our businesses profitable, and ensure that they are expanding in smart and forward-thinking ways to create reliable job opportunities for our people. It is for this reason that I think it will become very important to continue to actively invest money in our business wing in order to create that income and create those job opportunities. If re-elected, I would work with the team to ensure that we continue to diversify our economy so as to not overly depend on forestry for revenue and jobs.
I have also been appointed to be Huu-ay-aht representative to the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District (ACRD). Alongside the Yuułuʔiłʔatḥ First Nation and the Tsawassen First Nation, we are one of the first in the province to have the distinction of being full, voting members of a regional district. Since April 2012, I have represented our interests to the ACRD as well as the larger associations and organizations to which the ACRD belongs.
At the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities (AVICC), I gave a presentation about our Nation and our experiences to the entire group to great effect and it was well-received. At the next meeting of the AVICC, the group voted to change their constitution to grant full membership to any First Nation eligible to become a member of a regional district. Not only was I an official delegate of the ACRD there, I was also officially a delegate of my own Nation! At the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM), the ACRD was central to having the entire group declare that 2013 to be their Year of Reconciliation. I have also given many presentations to local government associations regarding the nature of First Nations and our story in working successfully with the ACRD.
If re-elected, I would like to continue to be the Huu-ay-aht’s representative to the ACRD where I can continue to put forward our interests, create opportunities for sharing and cooperation as well as make connections with a part of the province that we did not before have many opportunities with which to interact. Part of a successful Nation in Treaty is to leverage our newfound connections to create opportunities for partnerships and collaboration which we can turn into concrete economic and political benefit for our people. I hope to do that again.
My name is John Alan Jack. I thought I’d take the time to put together a quick primer on my platform for re-election. These are only short-form, and if you want more information regarding my positions and ideas, please check out my website at <www.johnalanjack.ca> for more information as it is released. Thank you!
I am thirty-three years old. My parents are David McIvor and the late Sandra Gallagher (Jack). My mother was the youngest daughter of Ernest Jack and the late Shirley Jack (Chester). I have two brothers. I’ve been married for over a year to the love of my life, Crystal, and we’re expecting our first child in early October 2015. I have a Bachelor’s Degree with Distinction in Global Studies from what is now Vancouver Island University. I have been a Member of Council for six years, and have just under a decade of experience with the Huu-ay-aht First Nations in staff and government positions.
I believe that the job of a Member of Council is to represent the interests of the whole community as she or he best understands it. Councillors must ensure that the decisions they make are the best quali-ty given available information and a thorough discussion. It is the job of Council to have respectful dis-course involving constructive conflict in order to ensure that harmony outside the Council table is maintained. If disagreements are not expressed at the table, then there is likelihood that the conflict will spill out laterally to great disservice to our Nation. We have to do our jobs right to avoid this from happening.
I believe it is of vital importance that we ensure that our hereditary leaders, the Ha’wiih Council, have the tools they need to meaningfully involve themselves in the direction and decision-making of our government. This past budget, I have put forward and secured a significant increase in funding for the Ha’wiih Council to better reflect their stature in our community. I cannot claim to understand the full nuance of our hereditary leaders’ authorities, responsibilities and protocols, but I can do what I can to ensure they have the resources to rediscover, reassert and restore the greater house of Huu-ay-aht in all our hearts and minds.
Exploration of LNG
Almost a year ago, our government announced an agreement with Steelhead LNG to explore the viability of a liquefied natural gas (LNG) facility in Sarita Bay on our treaty lands. Thus far, we have learned and communicated as much as we can about the possible project, and it culminated in a successful vote on moving into the next stage of exploration – feasibility studies. Though I am cautiously supportive of the project, I believe our People have yet to be convinced. As a matter of principle, I am more than willing to walk away from the project if studies prove it is not acceptable from an economic, environmental or cultural standpoint. That being said, however, I believe it is our duty to be just as prepared for the project to move ahead if the studies indicate acceptability.
I commit to ensuring that we have full access to all information we deem relevant to the project. I will work with my colleagues to ensure that we preside over a relationship with Steelhead LNG that fully represents our long-term interests and our values of iisaak, hish-uk tsawak and uu-a-thluk.
I believe that we have a strong corporate and governance structure for our economic development wing. In a little over four years, we have worked together to turn a significant loss into a significant profit for our forestry operation. We have a sound plan to invest heavily in our territory, specifically the areas around Anacla and Bamfield to help create a foundation for tourism and service industry diversification. We have just received word that our run-of-the-river independent power project has been approved to receive a water license, the next step will be to negotiate a standing-offer with BC Hydro. The areas of focus of our economic development operations have been consolidation, training and revenue generation. I will work to continue this approach and pursue investments that will create job-focused value generation so our People have opportunities to make a living on or near our territory.
In my term of office, I have represented the Nation at the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District (ACRD) and I have been appointed to be the Nation’s representative to the joint panel overseeing our exploration of the LNG project. In these roles, I have seen the value that good relationships with our friends and neighbours locally, and with prospective customers and partners in the wider world. Our treaty creates a sense of certainty and stability and that is attractive to prospective business partners. It has become a vital task of Council to forge positive and constructive relationships with all levels of gov-ernment and all aspects of business. I believe that I am particularly suited to help forge those relationships in a way that would significantly expand the prospects of the Nation. I would work with my colleagues to ensure that Huu-ay-aht maintains the positive, progressive and constructive identity it has with the wider world.
I believe the Nation has a strong future based in sound decision-making made in the past decades. We have reclaimed control of our destinies and have thus far created a robust foundation for future success. We do the things we do not to lose who we are, but rather we do those things to become who we should be. And that should continue, in earnest. I would be honoured to be re-elected to Council and I will do my utmost to see our Nation do well now and into the future.
The following is the first in a series outlining my platform for re-election to Huu-ay-aht First Nations Council. The topic of this piece is how I believe our economic initiatives should relate to and connect to our traditional governance practices. Future topics will cover my positions, ideas and comments regarding good governance, major projects like LNG exploration, and my understanding of what it means to be Huu-ay-aht today. Thanks for reading! – J.
Unlocking the Value of Our Lands and People for All Huu-ay-aht
In the time before contact with European explorers and traders, the Huu-ay-aht economy was based on harvesting natural resources from our lands and waters. They were controlled by our hereditary leaders based on traditional practices of conservation. Those resources were collectively managed for the good of all Huu-ay-aht. While food and material for clothing, housing, fuel and transportation were relatively plentiful over the long term, variations due to weather, intertribal conflict and other concerns often created serious shortfalls in vital resources. These challenges had to be managed on a larger scale, creating the need for mutually-beneficial trade agreements with other Nations up and down the coasts of the Island and the Mainland.
When contact was made with European explorers and traders, our people had been living in our territories for thousands of years. We numbered in the multiples of thousands because we had relatively stable and plentiful resources and we enjoyed relative peace and stability. One would imagine Huu-ay-aht leaders were not unlike leaders today. They wanted to ensure their people were safe, healthy and had a bright future. Unfortunately, a deficit of empathy and a surplus of ambition made those explorers and traders into colonizers who cared little for our traditional politics, economics and society. Indigenous peoples everywhere lost their lands and resources. Huu-ay-aht leaders lost their lands and their control of the resources that fed, clothed and housed our people for generations upon generations. The wealth of our people was harvested by others and taken out of our territory. Weakened by disease and overwhelmed by the might of the European powers, indigenous peoples like us lost their lands, and they very nearly lost their identity.
We did not lose our identity, however, and our leaders came together to do what they could to get back what was lost and taken away. Whether through negotiation, court cases or business de-velopment, Huu-ay-aht leaders worked together to pursue a better life for all Huu-ay-aht. We won back control and influence over our resources. We finally received a share of the wealth that had been taken off our lands without our benefit for generations. And with the treaty, we won back control over our own lives, our own lands and our own resources.
Now that we are self-governing, now that we are in control of our individual and collective destinies, it is up to us to ensure that we move into the future in a way that makes us safer, healthier, smarter and stronger. The challenge before us is daunting and serious, we need to improve: (1) the opportunities available to our people to make their individual lives better in the ways they see fit; and (2) in concrete terms, improve the actual conditions in which our people collectively live. In other words, we must do what we can do ensure that a Huu-ay-aht child born today has all the same opportunities for success in life, and that our people can count on the foundations of a dignified existence.
The Ha’wiih Must Be Respected
In the past, our hereditary leaders – the Ha’wiih – were in control over all the resources under their domain. If a fisherman brought in a load of fish, he would first have to visit his ha’wilth for it to be distributed fairly amongst the people. This was a foundation of our way of life, it helped maintain harmony and control individual ambitions. Today, we don’t largely barter individual commodities like fish or timber, but rather convert it all to currency for ease of accounting. The idea of reconciling our traditional economic practices with the means and methods of today is one that should be central to our thoughts and actions. We have done several things to bridge our rich past and our bright future…
First, we have businesses that we operate to help generate revenue for the Nation to use in programs and services to help our people. Second, we reinvest the wealth generated by our businesses to create job opportunities for our people to make a living. Third, we retain overall strategic direction of our economic activities while maintaining a separation between political motives and business operations. Fourth, that overall strategic operation of our businesses directly involves the duly-appointed representative of the Ha’wiih Council in government as a matter of law. And finally, we have used the moneys received from our businesses’ profit-sharing to bolster the budget of our traditional leaders.
That final point is critical. In the past, the Ha’wiih Council – our hereditary leaders – were only resourced as a mere committee of government. In true fact, they are a full branch of the Huu-ay-aht government and just as important as the Elected Government, the Tribunal and the People’s Assembly. We need to do what we can to ensure that they are not only involved, but have the capacity to be meaningfully involved on their terms.
In this past budget, I introduced a measure to link the profit received from our businesses directly to the budget of our Ha’wiih Council to more adequately reflect their stature in our community. With a significantly increased budget, our hereditary leaders will be able to conduct their affairs with the dignity and support they deserve. I will work to continue and expand this practice and hope to see a renewed vibrancy in our understanding and practice of the traditional roles and responsibilities of our Ha’wiih. I cannot claim to understand the full nuance of our hereditary leaders’ authorities, responsibilities and protocols, but I can do what I can to ensure they have the resources to rediscover, reassert and restore the greater house of Huu-ay-aht in all our hearts and minds.
My name is John Alan Jack. I am the eldest son of David McIvor and the late Sandra Jack, the youngest daughter of Ernest Jack and the late Shirley Jack (Chester). I grew up in the Parksville ar-ea, but have lived in Nanoose, Qualicum Beach and Port Alberni too. After graduating from secondary school, I earned a Bachelor’s Degree with Distinction in the field of Global Studies from what is now called Vancouver Island University. Shortly after, I met Crystal and have been together for over seven years, married for over a year, and we are expecting our first child in early October of this year.
My mother made sure we spent time during summer breaks camping at Pachena Bay. At the time, I was introduced to people and concepts that would become central to my identity today. My direct involvement with Huu-ay-aht began while I was in university. I was invited to play a role on our Constitution, Governance, Finance and Enrolment Committees. From there, I worked as a part of the team that informed our people on the treaty and our plans for self-government, and served as an En-rolment Coordinator, an Assistant to Chief & Council, and as a Communications Coordinator.
In 2009, I ran for Council and was fortunate enough to be voted into office. In my first term, I served as chairperson of Finance, Economic Development, Housing, and Communications. I was a part of the team that brought our Nation out from under the yoke of the Indian Act and into self-government and into the dream of greater independence under the Maa-nulth Treaty. On the Effec-tive Date of the Treaty, we instituted laws to replace those of the Indian Act, and I was involved in the creation of each and every one of them. Our laws mandated that we had to hold an election in the same year, and…
In 2011, I had the great fortune of being re-elected. In this term of office, I held the portfolios of Economic Development, and Law & Policy Development. I was also given the honour and responsi-bility of representing our Nation at the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District (ACRD) as one of its first representatives from a First Nation. In addition, I have also been named one of Huu-ay-aht’s dele-gates to the joint governing panel overseeing the exploration of the Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) facili-ty, a task I have taken very seriously.
In the field of economic development, I worked to ensure that our Nation had a reliable source of revenue moving into the future. In 2008, the financial crisis that started in the USA made a mess of BC coastal forestry. I oversaw the team that helped turn it all around for Huu-ay-aht forestry.
In my time, we saw a steady march out of a $1.2 million loss in 2010-11 and into a $3 million profit in 2014-15. In addition, I submitted a motion to our People’s Assembly for sustainable timber harvest on our treaty lands that saw our Nation receive over $1.0 million in stumpage tax and over $200,000 in profit sharing in the past two years. Beyond forestry, we have expanded and improved the Pachena Bay Campground, bought and operated a restaurant and general store in Bamfield, and have invested much in the training of our people who currently work and want to work for our businesses. For Huu-ay-aht to truly rebuild itself, it is just as important for us to unlock the value in our people as it is to unlock the value in our land and resources.
Working with Council, I have helped to achieve a balanced budget ahead of the schedule man-dated by our Financial Administration Act. I had the honour of helping to bring our civil service into the 21st Century by instituting a living wage policy while still maintaining that balanced budget. We took over and expanded our post-secondary funding to include more than university degrees and into much-needed trades training. Through my involvement at the ACRD and the LNG governing panel, I have done everything I could to create meaningful and constructive relationships with outside gov-ernments and businesses. Raising the Huu-ay-aht profile has become a key function of our elected leaders, and I have seen our Nation create a positive, progressive and honest reputation with the world since Treaty.
Planning for the Future
If I am re-elected, I will do my utmost to be part of the team you have selected to lead our community into the future. More specifically, I will work to:
- See to it that Huu-ay-aht people are treated fairly and honestly no matter where they live.
- Enrich and enhance the place of our Ha’wiih (hereditary leaders) by resourcing and supporting them in ways and means appropriate to their stature in our community.
- Expand and enhance programs that deliver healthcare, cultural teachings, education and employment opportunities to our People.
- Ensure that the studies exploring the LNG opportunity are done correctly, comprehen-sively, and answer the questions that our Ha’wiih, our People and our Government need in order to make a well-informed decision.
- Guarantee that, if the LNG project were to go ahead, the overall benefits to our Peo-ple are maximized while minimizing the impact on the environment, on our heritage and on our traditional resources.
- Complete a “Made in Huu-ay-aht” long-term tenure that balances economic, cultural and environmental factors for sustainable timber harvest on our lands.
- It has been a great honour to be allowed to serve my community these past six years, and I would like the honour of serving you again.