EDITORIAL: do we need to sign agreements so we respect each other?

If this agreement helps the Qualicum First Nation in terms of economic development, or anything else for that matter, then great

It had the air of importance, of historical significance, so we had to be there to record the moment.

We still don’t know what it all means. We published a story in Thursday’s paper (page 3) about the Qualicum First Nation (QFN) and the Regional District of Nanaimo signing an agreement that promises they will co-operate. How this wasn’t already in place, or perhaps why they even need a formal agreement, is unclear.

Chief Michael Recalma, one of the region’s most respected leaders for good reason (and easily the coolest politician around), said the agreement is “based on the values of collaboration and respect, which are fundamental principles for any positive government-to-government relationship.”

Fair enough, but it says something about our past, and present, that we need to sign formal agreements to respect each other. How is that not a given?

We had to dig into the details of the agreement (www.rdn.bc.ca/protocolagreements). There were motherhood statements like “Listen and understand each other’s interests.” There were also some meatier sections on the need for collaboration and/or communication on potential development.

The very last clause in the agreement? “Nothing in this protocol prejudices or affects the rights and interests or power of either party, or constitutes consultation on Aboriginal rights or interests.” In other words, this agreement has no real power. But be respectful to each other, please. We have put it in writing now so it has to be so.

If this agreement helps the QFN in terms of economic development, or anything else for that matter, then great. We don’t see it happening. It just seems to be a way-too-big government trying to make itself feel better.

The non-Aboriginal people of this region are very fortunate to have the QFN as our neighbours. It would not be out of line for them to be much more militant on the use of the land and resources. It’s a small group, sure, but it’s small because European settlers bullied their way into this beautiful, abundant region.

Meanwhile, the Nanoose First Nation’s former chief talked about taking large chunks of Parksville back. Nanoose’s current chief and council is suing the Island Corridor Foundation to get the dormant rail lands back. If the RDN had a nice ceremony and signed a co-operation agreement with the Nanoose First Nation, do you think it would matter one iota? No. First Nations can, and should, do what they wish. Photo-opp co-operation protocol agreement signings or not.

— Editorial by John Harding