FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – A number of residents came out on Saturday to the Pomeroy Hotel & Conference Centre for the Northern B.C. Caribou Closures Town Hall.
This Town Hall was hosted by M.P. Bob Zimmer in response to the lack of public consultation from the Provincial Government on the Caribou Recovery Process.
The purpose of the meeting was for residents to hear details regarding the potential Caribou Closures and for residents to have their say during a Question and Answer session.
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Guest speakers and panellists for the meeting included members from Concerned Citizens for Caribou Recovery, Fort St. John Mayor Lori Ackerman, Taylor Mayor Rob Fraser, Chetwynd Mayor Allen Courtoreille, Peace River North MLA Dan Davies, Peace River South MLA Mike Bernier, Gerry Paille of the B.C. Wildlife Federation, and Regional District Chair Brad Sperling.
Kathleen Connolly, of CCCR, says her group had started a petition and made it very clear that they are not opposed to a Recovery Plan but rather opposed to the idea of having consultation behind closed doors without the public’s involvement.
“We are not opposed to Caribou Recovery Plans, to finding ways to protect them. We are not opposed to land Partnership Agreements with First Nations but what we are opposed to is that due process has not been met. There has not been adequate consultation; there has not been sharing of information around Herd Management Plans, Land Management Plans, the matrixes on high elevation / low elevation, and what that looks like. So our concern was that we weren’t seeing any of the science to support, potentially, any of the decisions that were being made and they weren’t reaching out to our local Government at all. So nobody was actually having a conversation at all with the people who are going to be most affected by this.”
According to Connolly, the petition has reached more than 24,000 signatures urging the Provincial Government to involve residents for public consultation in the Recovery Planning Process.
Connolly also says the group has heard that some areas risk complete closure from human activity; they hope that this is not the case.
“We’ve heard that some areas could be completely closed to any human footprint. We really do hope that this is just a fairytale. But I think it is something that if we expect the worst, we can pushback and end up with something that we can all live with I think that is a much better strategy.”
Throughout the meeting, a few speakers had mentioned that before releasing information about the Caribou Recovery Plan the Province is waiting to negotiate with First Nations. But most First Nations will only negotiate if all stakeholders are included in the process as they believe in economic well-being.
PRRD Chair, Brad Sperling, says the residents of the Peace are angry at the lack of consultation but remain respectful of the process.
“Of course we’re angry, but the people up here are also respectful of the process.”
Sperling also said the Agreement would not be finalized until engagement is complete and potential impacts on communities and workers are understood.
The Province had previously cancelled three scheduled public meetings with the Regional District. Then on January 23, 2019, it was announced that the Province had agreed to start public consultation with the District in February for the Caribou Recovery Program.
In the meantime, Zimmer is urging residents to voice their concerns by writing to the Ministers involved with the Recovery Plan. (A list of these Ministers can be found below.)
“So please, just take that upon yourself, at least one a week… Just make an email or a letter and just send it off. That’s how it’s going to make a difference.”
Zimmer says he will continue to advocate on behalf of the residents in this matter until Public Consultation is held and the issue is resolved.
The full meeting can be seen here:
A list of the Ministers involved with the Caribou Recovery Plan:
- Honourable Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change:
- Sean Fraser, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change:
- Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans, and the Canadian Coast Guard: Jonathan.Wilkinson@parl.gc.ca
- Honourable George Heyman, B.C. Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy:
- Honourable Doug Donaldson, B.C. Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development: doug.donaldson.MLA@leg.bc.ca
- Honourable Scott Fraser, B.C. Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation: