Prince Rupert proceeding cautiously with boundary expansion as treaty talks continue

The City of Prince Rupert is proceeding with its boundary expansion, cautiously in the face of First Nations treaty negotiations.

The City of Prince Rupert is proceeding with its boundary expansion, but is doing so cautiously in the face of First Nations treaty negotiations.

City planner Zeno Krekic brought the boundary expansion back to council seeking an affirmation that the city wanted to continue to pursue based on feedback received thus far. In his report, Krekic noted perceptions of the expansion are that it is a land/tax grab, is too large, is unnecessary as everything is fine now, is beyond the resources of the city to administer and is disrespectful to First Nations. Criticisms levied against the expansion are that it is a tax grab, a jurisdictional grab, was being rushed through in terms of process and response time and would impact First Nations in the treaty process.

The last point was one that was raised by Councillor Judy Carlick-Pearson, who noted the Metlakatla Band is in stage four of a six-stage treaty process with the Province of B.C.

“I’m fully supportive of the city entertaining the idea of expansion, but … when it interferes with the treaty process of a local First Nations, I am not in favour of that,” she said, noting Metlakatla is “very close” to receiving treaty lands.

“I think we should respect the process they are going through in the treaty and use the time spent on the boundary expansion on other concerns.”

Councillors said they understood the concern, but wanted to use the summer to gather information about the treaty process and the lands in question rather than delaying the expansion entirely.

“We have land across the harbour that could be developed without a say from the regional district or Metlakatla … I don’t think anyone wants to see the other side of the harbour turn into another rail and another port. What a catastrophe it would be, as much as I like rail and ports,” said Councillor Joy Thorkelson, who wanted to pursue an “unconventional and original” agreement with stakeholders around the lands in question.

“We need to take a step back and realize this is a process of gathering information … not so we can make decisions on our own, but in discussion with our neighbours,” said Councillor Anna Ashley.

Councillor Nelson Kinney, meanwhile, was more blunt in his appraisal of the situation.

“Prince Rupert is going to need to grow and we need to have a place to grow with. We need more land,” he said.

Council directed staff to report back in the fall with feedback gathered from discussions with Metlakatla, Lax Kw’alaams and other governments and stakeholders. Council will look at the report before discussing the expansion further with the provincial government.

It was an idea everyone was in favour of, with the exception of Carlick-Pearson who voted in opposition to continuing the expansion.