Committee turns down request for RDN to be part of Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Region

Among the concerns raised by directors was the verbal agreements made with First Nations

The Regional District of Nanaimo board does not want to be involved with the Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Region.

At the last Committee of the Whole meeting on June 13, staff recommended that the board authorize execution of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to make the RDN an official partner with the MABR.

It was defeated, but the vote was not unanimous.

Some of the directors had some serious reservations about the MOU even after Monica Shore, Dr. Pam Shaw and Dr. David Witty of the MABR appeared as a delegation during the May 9 Committee of the Whole meeting.

Electoral Area Director Alec McPherson, Area B Director Howard Houle, Area C Director Maureen Young, Area F Director Julian Fell, and Nanaimo directors Gordon Fuller, Jerry Hong and Bill Yoachim all voted against it.

The purpose of the MOU is to create a foundation for regional co-operation between Vancouver Island University and the RDN in areas of mutual benefit that pertain to the MABR. As well, it will allow the RDN to participate in a roundtable forum that serves as a platform for sharing information and similar activities in the region.

The City of Parksville and the Town of Qualicum have established an MOU with VIU, and verbal agreements have been reached with the Snaw-Naw-As First Nation and the Qualicum First Nation.

Yoachim raised concerns about the MABR’s position against the logging industry, which he based on past disagreements with the Snaw-Naw-As First Nation. He feels that by signing the MOU, the RDN would be handcuffing the First Nations from their rights.

Area G director Joe Stanhope indicated the MOU is not about going against the forestry sector and explained that it’s all about science-based forestry renewal.

Qualicum Beach director Teunis Westbroek agreed with Stanhope and pointed out that forest companies had attended roundtable forums in the past. He added the MABR has no authority to stop any logging activity.

Yoachim and Hong raised concerns about the verbal agreements made with the First Nations, which they considered to be “loosey-goosey” and not concrete enough for them to get comfortable with.

Tyler Brown, RDN’s intergovernmental liaison, told the board the MOU does not place any binding, specific or obligatory financial commitments on the RDN. Nor does the agreement impose any financial liability or responsibility on either party with respect to the costs or expenses of the other.