Letter to Editor: I hope ministry representatives did not come to our communities just to put a check mark in a box

Letter writer, Roberta Willsie, discusses the latest Caribou Community Engagement session in Quesnel

Editor,

I would like to start by saying thank you to the ministry people (Caribou Recovery for B.C. , Canadian Wildlife Service, B.C. Ministry of Forests Lands, Natural Resources and Rural Development) who came to Quesnel on April 11 to inform citizens of our area about the Federal Species at Risk Act, the Endangered Caribou and the draft document for the Caribou Recovery Plan that is coming into effect in our area in the next few weeks, which they told us that they had consulted local governments, industry and citizens. They told us about the draft Partnership Agreement that will be implemented in Chetwynd which could affect up to 500 jobs and one mill in that small community.

It was great to see the Seniors’ Centre in Quesnel packed with concerned citizens asking why they were not consulted prior to the draft of Section 11, which will impact our community. Our Member of Parliament, Todd Doherty, caught a plane in Ottawa at midnight on Wednesday to attend the meeting in Quesnel on Thursday to speak about the lack of consultation. Several audience members, including our local city councillors (several were in attendance, although I did not see or hear the mayor), our Cariboo Regional District reps, representatives from Canfor and West Fraser Mills, local Aboriginals, Community Futures, logging contractors, mining representatives, guide outfitters, hunters, snowmobilers, recreationalists, several other resource industry reps and local residents all asking why they were not given the common courtesy of prior public consultation for something that will have a negative impact on our community and livelihoods.

The federal government has been lobbied by the NGO environmental groups to save the caribou at all costs. Looking back in history, the northern spotted owl was placed on the Endangered Wildlife List in 1986. Regardless of all the efforts of the federal and provincial governments to protect old-growth forests to save them and increase their population, they remain on the Endangered Wildlife List.

When the government comes to educate the community with only weeks before the ministry representatives need to hand in their draft document after May 3, profusely insisting that this is only a draft document, it sets off alarm bells. I urge the residents of this community to stand up and demand a seat at the table prior to the government implementing their document. We cannot rely on our provincial government to protect our community. Remember why we are paying high gas prices with the refusal of the construction of the Trans Mountain Pipeline in B.C. by our premier. We cannot rely on the federal government, who is lobbied by the eco trust lawyers acting on behalf of the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative, Greenpeace Canada, Wilderness Committee and Wildsight to implement protection of the Southern Mountain Caribou with herds living in our area. We were told about how the governments have tried and failed to relocate and increase the herds over the past few years, which was confirmed by the ministry representatives.

After being involved in the resource industries issues in Quesnel for 15 years in the 1990s, I do have a deep appreciation for how hard it is for our voices to be heard by government.

I sincerely hope that the ministry representatives did not just come to our communities to put a check mark in the box stating that they received public consultation prior to implementing their so-called draft document with holding these few public meetings.

Please provide your feedback to feedback.engage.gov.bc.ca until May 3.

Roberta Willsie

Quesnel

Editor’s Note: Since this letter was written, the deadline for providing feedback has been extended to May 31.

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