After being ignored – some would say bulldozed – by the B.C. government earlier this year when the Dock Management Plan was unceremoniously dumped on the community, it was no surprise that Pender Harbour came out in force last week to oppose changes that appear to be similarly imposed, this time by the SCRD, on a new Official Community Plan.
In both cases, it seems, the interests of shíshálh Nation are being served at the expense of the interests of Pender Harbour residents, and in both cases it’s their own elected governments that are foisting the changes on an unwilling community.
But the two situations are quite different.
The latest showdown is over the addition of five pages to the OCP referencing shíshálh’s 2007 Strategic Land Use Plan. The section spells out that “land use recommendations within this OCP and future decisions made by the SCRD will consider” – a key word – the strategic plan’s recommendations. It goes on: “Development applications on both private and public land will be referred to the shíshálh Nation for review … [and] the subsequent referral comments will be considered by the SCRD in the approval process.”
The wording is virtually identical to the text adopted in 2014 for the revised Halfmoon Bay OCP. The reference in the Pender Harbour OCP is two pages longer because there are more geographical areas of importance identified there.
In an editorial in this month’s Harbour Spiel, editor Brian Lee asks if the inclusion is “symbolic,” “politics,” or “a suck-up” to SIB. In fact, it’s none of those. In a story in the same issue, Lee answers the question himself when he quotes SCRD planning manager Andrew Allen: “It articulates the working relationship between the SCRD and shíshálh Nation.”
Unlike the dock plan, the OCP section describes an already existing SCRD policy. This is how the SCRD has been doing business for years. If Pender Harbour doesn’t know this, it’s because the process has worked well enough for individual applicants that it hasn’t exploded into controversy. And it’s also because, once again, the SCRD has done a lousy job of communicating vital information to its electors.
Now the SCRD is in a bind. How can it adopt the new Official Community Plan for Pender Harbour when the community is overwhelmingly against it? On the other hand, how can it remove a reference that transparently acknowledges the manner in which it governs?
But there is more to this as well. Pender Harbour is calling out a double standard whereby shíshálh has input on Pender Harbour’s land use plan but Pender Harbour has no input on shíshálh’s; whereby shíshálh has oversight on development in Pender Harbour but Pender Harbour has no oversight on development on band lands in the area.
It’s a one-way street and there will be no peace in Pender Harbour until it gets fixed.