In recent days, the Pacheedaht First Nation has been the focus of an unfair and unwarranted attack by Zoe Blunt of the Forest Action Network. Those attacks culminated in a press release sent out by Ms. Blunt on August 24, 2011.
Pacheedaht Chief Marvin McClurg reacted to Ms. Blunt’s press release stating: “It would be helpful if Ms. Blunt focused on the facts. We are tired of outsiders stirring up trouble in our First Nation to further their own agenda. First Nations have had outsiders try to impose their beliefs and have tried to convert us to these beliefs for hundreds of years and look at the historical damage they have done. In recent years we have made great strides to improve our situation: we have gotten 72 per cent of our members off Social Assistance, we have purchased a Tree Farm License through a joint venture and we are currently building a new health centre and we continue to work with third parties to try to build our economy through employment and training opportunities.”
In her press release, Ms. Blunt stated that she shares a common goal with elders, traditionalists, and hereditary chiefs – protecting the land for future generations. Pacheedaht-elected Councillor Tracy Charlie expressed some concern with that statement: “What ‘common goal’ is Ms. Blunt referring to?Our elected officials fully understand that we have aboriginal rights and title to our lands. We are the stewards of the land and have been since time immemorial. But we must balance land protection with economic development. We have met with Ender Ilkay several times to ensure that his Marine Trail Development meets these objectives. I find it extremely insulting that Ms. Blunt wants to tell us what is best for our members. The only way we can ensure our future is to take control of our own destiny. Unlike Ms. Blunt, we, as leaders, have to focus on making sure our members have a decent future and that inevitably means that some development will be necessary so we can put our people to work.”
The chief pointed out that, contrary to what is contained in Ms. Blunt’s press release, Pacheedaht members are regularly consulted about Band business through Band Meetings. The chief stated, “while it makes for a good story to say that members are being denied input about critical issues facing our First Nation such as the Marine Trail Development being proposed by Ender Ilkay, that is simply not true.”
The chief pointed out that there was a community meeting held on March 30, 2011 where Mr. Ilkay was invited to talk to the members about the development. He further pointed out that certain Pacheedaht members cited in Ms. Blunt’s press release – Stacy Jones and Russell Jones – were actually at the March 30, 2011 community meeting, as evidenced by minutes taken at that meeting. The chief pointed out, “how can Ms. Blunt leave the impression that we are not consulting our members when Stacy Jones and Russell Jones were at this meeting and participated in it. If other Pacheedaht members choose not to attend our meetings, that is their choice. But it is unfair and untrue to paint the impression that we do not consult with our members.”
Dorothy Hunt, Pacheedaht Band Manager, took issue with Ms. Blunt as well: “She does not seem to understand that the Pacheedaht First Nation is self-governing and that we operate in an open and democratic fashion.”
Ms. Hunt went on to point out that there are regular meetings where band business is discussed, that elections are held every two years, and that Ms. Blunt’s press release seeks to leave the strong impression that the Pacheedaht leadership does not take into account the concerns of their members. Ms. Hunt went on to state that, “in any democracy there are dissenting positions and members are free to state their concerns and objections. I find it troubling that Ms. Blunt does not appear to be interested in finding out what is really happening.”
Recently, Ms. Blunt stated in an email to Ms. Hunt that she has said several times that she is more than willing to meet with chief and council and Ms. Hunt. Ms. Hunt pointed out that “this assertion is incorrect. In fact, we even invited her to meet with chief and council to hear our point of view on one occasion and the day before the meeting was going to be held, she declined to attend.”