shíshálh Nation and the province of British Columbia have announced the start of negotiating their first joint decision-making agreement under Section 7 of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act, which will include implementing the much-discussed Pender Harbour Dock Management Plan (DMP).
An Aug. 2 press release said this decision will affect dock tenures in shíshálh swiya (also known as birthplace, territory, and world of shíshálh Nation). The governments will finalize, confirm and publicize a list of to-be-consulted stakeholders within 15 days as part of the engagement for negotiations under Section 7.
"This is another important step forward in the evolution of the shíshálh-B.C. relationship and an advancement in reconciliation," said hiwus (Chief) Warren Paull of shíshálh Nation. "Joint decision-making is the way of the future and is the natural next stage in our decision-making processes. We are proud of the work we are doing and the relationship we are continuing to build with B.C. We look forward to the work ahead."
Since 2018, a shared decision-making model between B.C. and shíshálh Nation has reviewed provincial authorizations for dock tenures in shíshálh swiya, but the statutory decision-making authority remained with the provincial government.
“The agreement will support ongoing work to achieve long-term comprehensive reconciliation and land-use predictability by providing transparent requirements for dock applicants, mitigating ecological impacts to the foreshore, protecting archeological resources, and advancing collaborative management of shíshálh swiya,” the press release said.
Why Pender Harbour?
In an email to Coast Reporter on Aug. 3, the Ministry of Forests (previously part of Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development [FLNRORD]) said unauthorized docks built in Pender Harbour over many years have had significant environmental and archaeological ramifications, and studies conducted for the Pender Harbour DMP confirmed the sensitivity of the area — including eelgrass habitats, fish and archeological sites — has been adversely affected by docks and associated structures.
The Pender Harbour DMP was developed by shíshálh Nation and the province in 2018. A 2015 draft raised the eyebrows of residents in the Pender Harbour area, who say they were not consulted. Before that, a moratorium on new dock applications and renewals of current tenures was issued when the province began discussions about the management of docks in Pender Harbour with shíshálh Nation. The first new dock to receive approval in the Pender Harbour under the DMP was installed in January 2020.
Approximately 30 new moorage applications have been submitted under the Pender Harbour DMP, and five have been issued a tenure as of Aug. 3, while the rest are under review. More than 200 tenures have been issued by B.C. and shíshálh Nation, according to the Ministry of Forests. But no new moorage applications have been accepted, nor tenures issued, within the DMP’s zone 1, also called the “red zone.”
Removal notices delivered
In zone 1, 16 landowners have recently received notices for noncompliance and more notifications in that area could be sent in the future, as the investigation into unauthorized docks is ongoing, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Forests told Coast Reporter. Those landowners who received the notices will have until Aug. 31 to remove the docks that are untenured or are not eligible for replacement tenure.
“The agreement will be limited to the approval or disallowance of tenures applications for private moorage and commercial docks under the Land Act; issues related to monitoring and ensuring compliance on issued Land Act tenures will remain the authority of the Province,” the Ministry of Forests spokesperson said via email.
Pender Harbour and Area Residents Association (PHARA) director Sean McAllister, who is co-chair of the group’s dock management plan committee, told Coast Reporter the PHARA board has yet to meet about the development but received some advance notice the announcement would be made. He said they’re anxious to sit down with government and provide the local perspective.
The last discussions PHARA was a part of regarding dock management was in July 2020, McAllister said, and they’ve been asking for follow-ups since but have had no formal meetings with government. While they continue to have concerns about local representation, McAllister said, “We have been given assurances that we will be consulted with respect to how this shared decision-making process is going to be implemented. We're hoping that that consultation will be a little better than the consultation that we've received so far insofar as the dock management is concerned.
“We intend to participate to the extent that we're able to and hopefully try to smooth out the rough edges of the dock management plan. There are still a number of outstanding issues that we'd like to discuss with the government,” he said. Although he declined to share particulars at this point, McAllister said they’re looking to consult on some of the details.
What officials say
"The Pender Harbour dock management plan was an important step toward creating a respectful, standardized and transparent process for protecting natural and archeological sites along the foreshore," Nicholas Simons, MLA for Powell River and Sunshine Coast, said in the press release. "I'm looking forward to a full joint decision-making agreement where shíshálh and the Province equally share in the responsibility for sustainable development while ensuring heritage and environmental values are preserved for the generations to come."
The Sunshine Coast Regional board chair Darnelda Siegers was also quoted in the Aug. 2 release: "The Sunshine Coast Regional District, along with other local governments on the Sunshine Coast, look forward to engaging with the Province of British Columbia and the shíshálh Nation throughout this process."
"Agreements under the Declaration Act are a powerful and important way to recognize Indigenous jurisdiction and decision-making authority," said Murray Rankin, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation. "Our work with shíshálh is a tangible example of B.C.'s commitment to changing our relationship with Indigenous Peoples. Given our strong partnership and history of working together, the proposed negotiations are a natural evolution of how we manage docks together. If we are successful, the agreement will support existing shíshálh self-government and advance a new model for working together with Indigenous Peoples on decisions that affect them."
The ministers of what are now called the Ministry of Forests and the Ministry of Land, Water and Resource Stewardship — previously known as FLRORD — were both quoted about the partnership with shíshálh Nation and transparent decision-making processes.
The Declaration Act
The provisions for negotiating joint and consent-based decision-making agreements are set out in Section 7 of the Declaration Act, for the purposes of reconciliation. Local governments and potentially affected stakeholders will be included.
B.C. passed the Declaration Act into law on Nov. 28, 2019, becoming the first jurisdiction in Canada to implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The joint decision-making process currently under way also builds on the Foundation Agreement signed by shíshálh Nation and B.C. in 2018.