I must admit that my jaw dropped a little when I found the court documents pertaining to Kitkatla taking the City of Prince Rupert to court over the sale of Watson Island.
The two communities, I thought, had a positive working relationship including time spent together as part of the Community to Community forum that brings together leaders from throughout the North Coast to bring a united voice to the key issues of the region. And as I read the documents a little more thoroughly, I became a bit unnerved by what they were saying and what Kitkatla was seeking.
I support and understand the need to consult and accommodate First Nations when it comes to a new development or project – something that is going to have an impact on the environment and ecosystem within the traditional territory. But the notion that consultation and accommodation is required when selling or re-developing a property is not one I find myself ready to support.
The fact is that Watson Island has been operational for decades and it has changed hands several times during those many decades. At one time it even changed hands as a result of a sale by the crown. It is a developed property and has been owned by many, so why the need for consultation and accommodation now? This question becomes even more perplexing when you consider re-development is mentioned.
And the precedent that this would set should the court side with the Gitxaala Nation is a bit unnerving as well. If the court rules that the City must consult with the Gitxaala about Watson Island, wouldn’t Kitkatla then also need to be consulted before selling the Pillsbury House, the Regional District Office or the Fire Hall should a new one be built? Would consultation be needed for renovations to the Lester Centre or redevelopment of the Civic Centre?
Would this extend to the School District, which is also “a creature of the crown”, so that any sale of the empty school properties would require consultations? What about the province and the federal government? Would consultation and accommodation be required if they were to sell the old Ministry of Forests office or the current Post Office or RCMP detachment buildings?
Granted this may be taking things to extremes, but it is all possible using the wording outlined in the court documents for this case.