[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.
It’s been a long while since I’ve updated, and I apologize for not updating in good time.
Tomorrow, and the day after, my First Nation will be holding our People’s Assembly, which is something like a supercharged Annual General Meeting. In the morning, information sessions will be held about what we’ve done in the past year and what we plan to do in the next year. Part of that will be a vote on whether or not we continue to explore an LNG project with local company Steelhead LNG.
Now, let’s go back in time for a moment.
On 19 September 2014, I attended and gave a presentation to the 6th Annual Northeastern BC Liquefied Natural Gas Summit in Vancouver, BC at SFU. This was a presentation that I gave to a room full of government, business and First Nations representatives.
Here is a link to the audio of that presentation, which I believe outlines Huu-ay-aht’s approach to economic development projects like that of this potential deal with Steelhead: (I must also thank Brandon Thompson of Cloverpoint in Victoria for recording it: ORIGINAL POST HERE)
(Also, I’m currently having difficulty posting the MP3 of this presentation onto my own SoundCloud account, but I will endeavour to continue to try.)
1. [00:00] Introduction and Overview on the Huu-ay-aht First Nations
2. [4:20] Understanding Treaty and Self-Government in the Huu-ay-aht Context
3. [6:50] Huu-ay-aht’s Government Structure [Council, Ha’wiih, People’s Assembly, Tribunal]
4. [9:48] Huu-ay-aht’s Land and Reasons for Our Approach to Economic Development & Own-Source Revenue [I start to talk about LNG here…]
5. [12:30] Three Core Traditonal Values of the Huu-ay-aht First Nations
6. [16:20] Our Values and Their Connection to Triple Sustainability
7. [18:50] Social Sustainability and How Huu-ay-aht Has Pursued It
8. [19:50] Environmental Sustainability and Why It Matters to Huu-ay-aht
9. [21:00] Active Participation and How Huu-ay-aht Does It
10. [21:50] How Business and Crown Governments Should Approach First Nations
11. [22:30] How First Nations Would Best Approach Economic Development
12. [23:30] Final Thoughts on First Nations Strengths and Requirements in Large Projects
I’m not entirely certain how I can post the presentation itself, but I’ll give it a shot…
There we have it,
We live a world of limited resources.
The trick of government is to use community resources, however defined, in order to have the best effect on the community, however defined.
In doing this, governments will make decisions that will mean closing the door on one thing in order to achieve another thing. These are trade-offs. They are essential to getting anything worthwhile done. Making decisions that result in trade-offs has been one of the big weaknesses of our government. We want to do everything, and thus risk failure at achieving much of anything.
It is the job of our leaders to make these decisions based on the available information, their skills at identifying options and costs, and each Member of Council’s own values, attitudes and beliefs.
In the Huu-ay-aht experience, our governments get elected based on the judgment of our community based on voters sense of individual quality, however defined.
This results in a government of people who might, and usually do, have different viewpoints on what needs to be done, and why it’s important. This was on-purpose. The best governments are the ones where nothing is taken for granted. There is a need for conflict, not between people, but between ideas. These ideas should be put forward and tested at the level of government as best its members can.
The hope, the theory, is that only the best ideas of the ones presented will survive to grow into plans and be carried out to the best of our abilities.
This is no guarantee that the idea, plan or follow-through will result in something that is efficient, effective or achieve the objective. Those things take good governance practices, discipline at the top levels and a skilled administration.
Disagreements will inevitably occur, but decisions needs to keep being made. This will result in some decisions that citizens and members of government won’t like. The truth of it all is that this is intentional, too. In any given scenario, there are many viable options in an objective sense. When you get subjective, the options are even wider.
As inefficient as democratic methods are, they are the best we have to do the job in an acceptable way. Every other method is either outside our capacity as human beings, or entirely unfair from much of any ethical perspective.
On Saturday, the Huu-ay-aht First Nations come together as a community to check-in with each other and talk about what’s been happening: decisions, actions, trade-offs and overall governance. The trick here is to understand that we all have different points of view, different values and different information. The trick to having a successful assembly is to understand that we’re better off trying to understand where we’re all at and providing realistic and respectful options for moving forward.
I will endeavour to remember these words, and I will endeavour to try to understand others’ points of view as long as they try to do the same.
I cannot guarantee that I will agree, but I can guarantee that I will listen to the best of my ability.
It is my hope that you strive to do the same.
A quick note: I plan on posting thoughts on what it will take for us to succeed as a First Nation of the Maa-nulth Final Agreement. These are my thoughts alone, and not the official line of the government of the Huu-ay-aht First Nations. I am but one voice in that chorus, and here I sing alone.
As Chair of Economic Development for the Huu-ay-aht First Nations, I am responsible for overseeing the agenda of government in regards to economic development. Notwithstanding the threat of seeming a hammer looking for nails, I will posit two notions: (1) that our community entered into treaty in order better our potential and actual lives individual and as a community, and (2) that our success is predicated on success in business and local economic development.
If the Huu-ay-aht First Nations stayed under the current federal regime, I do not think we would have the tools necessary to make our lives better. Without tools such as ownership of land, access to resource development, and meaningful self-government, a community is hamstrung from the get-go. Though there are plenty of routes to acquiring the tools necessary to pursue a better life for our people, I do not think those routes are as effective as Treaty itself. We may be able to come into a cobble of agreements with the Province and Federal government, but they do not have the certainty nor the authority of a treaty. Pursuing our ends by way of Court proceeding can feed a strong sense of conflict-based patriotism, but it ends up straining the relationship with the very folks we need to work with to succeed in the long term. Relying on the Courts too much will result in a new relationship that feels very much like an extended divorce proceeding — and I think this is not an ideal situation for any party.
Treaty gives us the tools and material to rebuild our First Nation, but we need to use those tools effectively and those materials efficiently. One such task before us to find new and renewable resources necessary to continue our work. In essence, we need to find ways to make a living on a community scale. As a government, we have two main tools: (1) taxation and (2) economic development. While we are pursuing everything we can to make our lands attractive for residential and commercial investment, and that this taxation will form a basis for maintaining our lands and services on those lands, I think they will live only pay for the services rendered to the land base in question. Honestly, I think it should likely remain that way — overly taxing those on our lands to extend benefits to others away from those lands will likely dissuade people from investing their lives or money there.
I think that the resources we need to reach parity in potential standard of living with the rest of Canada will require canny use of current resources we have to make more in the future. We will do this through investment, in general and in various things, but for now I will speak to economic development. We can invest in stocks and bonds and accounts that will create a return on investment, but I only think of this as a measure to keep what we have rather than a means of generating more.
Keep in mind that we have to grow faster, much faster, than other communities in order to reach parity in standard of living. First off, basic physics state that a thing needs to travel at a higher velocity than the target in order to catch up to that target. Thus, we have to grow at an average rate higher than the Canadian average. Secondly, our community has a much higher rate of growth than the rest of Canada. We have to grow our resources as fast as inflation and our birthrate in order to maintain what we have now, and we have to grow faster than that in order to see an improvement. If we wish to reach some form of parity (actual or potential) with the rest of Canada, we need to reliably grow faster than the rest of Canada for a period of years and years.
This is not impossible, but the decisions we make as leaders now can jumpstart that process or slow it down by years and years. The decisions we make, the ones that matter, they have trade-offs. We cannot have everything we want because we live in a world of scarcity. We need to look to the future and plan on creating an environment far into the future where our successors’ problems will be centered on what to do with their wealth, rather than what they can do with what little they have….
Not exactly scholarly, but at this point, I’m just blogging here.
“Dear Canada: First Nations don’t want to be wards of the state” by Chief Michael LeBourdais of the Whispering Pines/Clinton Indian Band writing for The Globe and Mail
“Atleo was courageous to meet with Harper as his constituency openly revolts” by Andrew Coyne writing for The National Post