Councillors reflect on busy year at annual Legislature

Huu-ay-aht First Nations held the first sitting of its Legislature on March 20, 2018 in the Council Chambers at the Anacla Government Office.

Legislature is a time for Huu-ay-aht to pass the Budget Act, 2018 and deal with any outstanding business. This year, in addition to the 2018 budget, the members were doing the first reading of the Tribunal Act Amendment Act 2018. Speaker Angela Wesley opened the session by allowing each executive council member to make a statement on the past year and goals for the coming year.

Chief Councillor Robert J. Dennis Sr. began by reminding everyone in the room of the importance of staying connected to culture.

“It is important for people to understand how important our culture is to us,” he explained. “It is in everything we do and why we do it.”

He reflected on the meaning of the word prudent and its importance. He said it means ensuring “we don’t always think with our heads, but also with our hearts.”

The Chief Councillor pointed out that, although Huu-ay-aht has many goals, the most important for him is self-reliance. He highlighted the important steps the Nation took toward this goal, including the significant Specific Claims win. He also sees the Ancient Spirit Modern Mind document as important, and he pointed out that it is always with him and weighs into the decisions he makes as a leader.

In the coming year, he wants to see some focus put on the Tyee House. He explained that when people come to the territory he wants them to have a place to do business – one that shows Huu-ay-aht has made an investment in its future. He praised the Huu-ay-aht Group of Businesses for having an even better year than before.

“I felt a different buzz in the community this year,” he said. “More people are working and less attention is being paid to politics and more to running the businesses.”

He said the Nation is doing a good job following and honouring the strategic plan, and he is confident this will continue and exceed expectations. He thanked senior staff for all of their hard work and stressed that nothing that was accomplished in the previous year would have been done without them.

“I want 2018 to be better year,” he said. “This budget is bigger and better, and it reflects that the Nation cares about its people because they were consulted.”

Councillor Ben Clappis said it has been a busy year and chairing the Hahouthlee Committee has been an interesting new challenge. He said, with so much to learn in his new portfolio, and he is appreciative of all the support he has received.

He said the fishery side of his portfolio is always busy, and they are excited about new opportunities this year. He also shared that a number of Roosevelt Elk were transplanted into the Sarita area of Huu-ay-aht’s territory. The hope is these elk, many of which are pregnant, will help build up the herd in the area.

On a personal note, Ben mentioned he and his wife Clara Clappis continue to act as a host home for Nuu-chah-nulth foster children, offering them exposure to their culture when they visit the territory.

Councillor Connie Waddell said her portfolio of Treaty Implementation is hard to measure, as it spins off in many directions. She believes they have made great progress recently.

“As I spend more time working with the other Maa-nulth Nations, I know we are moving and making progress,” she said. “This council has been very aggressive in developing a budget and having great discussions about the opportunities ahead of us.”

She said the whole idea of this portfolio is to show citizens how the treaty is working for them and how many benefits it brings to the Nation and its citizens.

“Seeing it come alive and off the page is what I’m excited about,” she said of the Treaty. “My goal is to educate citizens as much as possible of how they can benefit.”

She highlighted the new crab licence opportunity, additions to the Treaty Settlement Lands, and lots of positive work in Natural Resources in the Hahouthlee. These are big successes, and she is looking for even more in what she believes will be a very busy upcoming year.

Councillor Sheila Charles welcomed the citizens in the room and expressed her appreciation to them that they are taking an interest in their Nations’ business.

She echoed many of the councillors’ comments that it has been an extremely busy year. She said, at first, she felt like she was just hanging on, now she feels like everything is moving very fast, and in the right direction.

“I can’t believe we only have one year left in this term,” she said. “It’s really exciting times.”

For many years Sheila has been working to create programming that would help families and children in care. Although it took a lot of work and at times she thought it would never move forward, she said, “the Social Services Project turned out better than I could have imagined.”

She said once she came to the realization that this was about addressing intergenerational trauma, she began to see how the program should come together. With that focus, she was able to present the project in a way that received support from other council members. She stressed the importance of advice she received early on to draw down the social services jurisdiction. From there the panel was formed and they began making progress with a prevention and support-based model.

“Today we are doing something – we are offering support,” she said. “I’m looking forward to seeing the numbers of children in care drop to zero – then I’ll know this program has done what it can to support and prevent the kind of trauma we have seen for generations.”

She gave much of the credit to the team that has been built at Huu-ay-aht.

“I hold my hands up to all staff – we couldn’t do it without your support.”

Her goal for the future is to see people living a healthy, thriving life and have the world look at the Nation and say “look what Huu-ay-aht is achieving.”

Councillor Trevor Cootes said lots is going on in his portfolios of Economic Development and Infrastructure, and he thanked council for all they do to support him.

“We’ve always known what we want as a Nation,” he said. “We achieve it because our elected and hereditary government works together, and that gives us the best foundation for making decisions.”

He said it is nice to finally see progress on the Kiix̣in tourism plan, one he saw first as an idea in 1988. He expressed his appreciation to Wišqii and Stella Peters for the excellent job they did on the tours last summer. He said guiding comes down to mostly personality and being able to connect with the people visiting, and Stella and Wišqii did that seamlessly between them, immersing the visitors in the Nation’s culture.

In the future, he would like to see more engagement between the Nananiiqsu and Huu-ay-aht youth.

“All success is connected to this,” he said, explaining that his own children taught him this recently. “I hope in the future to bridge that gap.”

Other successes he shared included the BC Hydro micro-hydro power project, the success of the Huu-ay-aht Group of Businesses last season, and an increase in tourism in the area.

In the coming year, he looks forward to building on the work with Pacific Rim park, as they move toward the 50th anniversary of the park in 2020, which coincides with the 20th anniversary of the House of Huu-ay-aht.

Over the phone, because of the recent birth of his second daughter, Councillor John Jack said it has been so busy this year, and it makes him appreciate even more all the work people are doing for the Nation on every level. He said the Nation has always done business in an organized and professional way.

“We can be proud of what we have achieved and that we have a plan,” he said. “We are not seeing success just because of the Treaty, but because of how we approach things.”

He stressed the importance of continuing to focus on outcomes and doing what the Nation needs to do to achieve them.

Kwispaa LNG has seen many successes this year, he explained, because it has been approached in a professional, inclusive manner. He said this includes the LNG Advisory Group, the Project Oversight Board, and government relations efforts. He said it is by continuing to build relationships that we will be successful in the future.

In his Financial portfolio, he said it is important to “catch up and keep up” to the rest of Canada.

Language and culture are two essential areas on which the Nation must focus in order to conserve and promote them, he explained. He said the Nation must teach the children their language, so that way in the future they can direct-teach their own children.

The recently announced federal treaty loan forgiveness was very positive, John explained, but it is important that the money is used wisely to achieve the Nation’s goals.

“The strength of our government is based on the quality working relationship between elected government, Ḥaw̓iiḥ, committees, and administration,” he said. “The strength of governance depends on staff, and we have that.”

In the coming year, he is looking forward to working with the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District on the plan to bring recycling to Huu-ay-aht First Nations.

“It may not be sexy, but it’s a testament to what we can do if we build relationships,” he said. “If we lead strongly, we will leave a strong future for the next generation.”

Following the opening remarks, Connie Waddell presented the Budget Act, 2018, for John Jack. Members of council passed the first reading of the Budget Act, 2018 with a number of additions and conditions.

After the act was originally recommended by the Financial Committee, Council identified an additional line item, related to the cultural tourism and Kiix̣in. Executive Council later approved the amended act, and added additional matters relating to elder care and to disbursement of funds to citizens that will require additional spending authority.

Ḥaw̓iiḥ Council was scheduled to review the budget, but that meeting did not end up occurring. After the Finance Committee reviews the amended act this week, it will go before the Ḥaw̓iiḥ Council before the second and third sitting of Legislature.

The Tribunal Act requires that the chair and vice-chair each must have at least 20 years of experience as a practicing judge or lawyer. The vice-chair position has been empty for some time, and so the recommendation is that this be reduced to 10 years. Ḥaw̓iiḥ Council offered its support in this change, and at the People’s Assembly this year the motion to amend the act was passed. At the first sitting of Legislature, members passed the motion to amend the Tribunal Act.

That concluded business for the first sitting, and the meeting was adjourned. The second and third sitting of Legislature will take place on March 29, 2018 at the Anacla Government Office, in Council Chambers. Citizens are encouraged to attend.