Haida Gwaii Observer’s Year in Review 2019: January - June

Haida Gwaii Observer’s Year in Review 2019: January - June

Haida Gwaii news makers of 2019: Part 1

Haida Gwaii Observer's Year in Review 2019: January - June

  • Dec. 30, 2019 12:00 a.m.


Local beachcomber Ross Hayes found this 17-inch glass ball on Jan. 7, washed up on the beach near Skonun Point. After doing some digging and current calculations, Richard Dewey, associate director of Ocean Networks Canada, said it most likely got torn off an underwater camera rig in Barkley Canyon last November and was carried up the continental shelf by ocean currents until it wrapped around Langara Island and beached on Graham Island. (photo Haida Gwaii Observer)

Record ferry cancellations lead to Masset milk drought

A series of cancelled ferries and container truck issues led to a dairy drought in Masset stores. Len Labossiere, general manager of the Haida Gwaii Co-op, said a rash of ferry cancellations in December was bad enough, but the shortage got even worse after one perishable-goods truck rolled over on an icy section of Highway 16 near Houston and another somehow got diesel fumes inside.

“It was like a perfect storm,” Labossiere said. “We do realize where we’re at, and we only have so many ferries. It’s frustrating for us as a business because we do want to get that product to our members.”

The shortage underlined just how many windstorms had whipped Haida Gwaii and the whole B.C. coast last winter. According to BC Ferries, Dec. 2018 set a record for cancellations. With a total of 330 sailings cancelled across all BC Ferries routes due to bad weather, it blew the previous record of 220 cancellations right out of the water.

READ MORE: December windstorms led to record ferry cancellations

Solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en

Hundreds rallied in Old Massett and Skidegate to support the Wet’suwet’en people who oppose a natural gas pipeline that will cross their territory.

Trevor Russ, vice president of the Council of the Haida Nation, welcomed the turnout in Old Massett and said the CHN and Haida hereditary leaders were discussing ways to support Wet’suwet’en opposition to the Coastal GasLink pipeline.

“It’s a tough situation they find themselves in. It’s a colonial government, and right now the RCMP are trying to enforce the injunction that was put down back in December,” he said.

Owned by TC Energy (formerly TransCanada), Coastal GasLink is a 670-km pipeline project expected to deliver natural gas from the Dawson Creek area to the $40-billion LNG Canada liquefaction plant and export terminal being built in Kitimat.

READ MORE: Rallies show support for Wet’suwet’en opposition to LNG

No more plastic

Students at Gudangaay Tlaats’gaa Naay said it was high time Haida Gwaii quit using plastic shopping bags.

“We use a plastic bag, on average, for less than 30 minutes and it lasts between 500 and 1,000 years in our environment,” Hanna Edenshaw, co-president of the new Environment Club at the Masset high school said.

Speaking to Masset councillors in January, Edenshaw said there are better options than plastic, from reusable cloth bags to single-use paper and compostable bags that are non-toxic and hold the same weight.


The Skidegate Saints are your 2019 ANBT intermediate champions. It was a battle of intermediate titans as the Skidegate Saints squared off against the Prince Rupert Bad Boyz. Heading into the game Prince Rupert was looking for revenge, it was the Saints who had dismantled them in the third round, forcing them to fight through the losers bracket for a shot at redemption.

Unfortunately for the Bad Boyz, the final finished with the same result as the third round, a Skidegate victory, the Saints taking this one by a final of 85-83. (photo The Northern View)

Graduation rates up by more than 20%

High school completion rates on Haida Gwaii shot up more than 20 per cent last year, from 70 per cent in 2017 to 93 per cent in 2018. The Aboriginal rates of completion also rose in tandem with the overall figure, climbing from 68 per cent to 90 per cent in 2017 and 2018 respectively. While pleased with the results and giving credit to the community for the upward trend, School District No. 50’s interim superintendent Joanne Yovanovich was cautious to celebrate the achievement. “We always struggle with interpreting data because of our small population. But we recognize the parents and the communities support for education — for the most part the community holds that as a high value, that the kids graduate. That’s not always the case [in other districts].”

BCTS not at fault

B.C.’s forests watchdog has found the harvest practices of BC Timber Sales are meeting all legal requirements in the Naikoon area. Haida Gwaii’s Cloudberry Action Network filed the complaint with the Forest Practices Board (FPB) in October 2017, concerned of BCTS’s increased rate of harvesting western red and yellow cedar in the licence area. The file also asked the board to investigate whether the company’s practices overall were within the Haida Gwaii Lnd Use Objectives Order and whether they were meeting the intent of the 2010 ecosystem based management (EBM) plan. The FPB report on BCTS’s cedar stewardship, watershed-level hydrologic processes and landscape-level conservation of biodiversity found all planning and practices were compliant with the order and the EBM outlined within it.

READ MORE: Investigation into Naikoon logging finds no fault with BCTS

Moores resigns

Patrick Moores, Haida Gwaii’s school board trustee for Masset and Tow Hill, abruptly resigned, after just two months on the job, alleging a disregard of policy and procedure from the chairperson.

Moores released a statement in a letter to the Observer laying out his grievance with board chair Roeland Denooij. He specifically accused Denooij of violating a policy of confidentiality by disclosing information from in-camera meetings. Moores alleges when he raised concerns over the breach of protocol two other board members supported Denooij on the disclosure. “In School District No. 50 Haida Gwaii, we follow the Rule of Law,” Moores wrote in his letter. “Roeland Denooij acts as if he is above the Law. Our School District policy … states: ‘No Trustee shall disclose to the public the proceedings of a closed meeting.'” Moores also objected to Denooij signing a “major contract” on behalf of the board prior to being officially sworn in as a trustee. “This is illegal,” Moores wrote. “Roeland and our Secretary-Treasurer should have known better.”

READ MORE: Trustee Moores resignes from school district


Port Clements celebrated their Inaugural Mardi Gras which started with Loonie and Twoney auctions in their hall. Tables were also rented out so people could sell art & craft items, also garage sale goodies. The kitchen served hot chili and jambalaya. After all these activities came to and end, a colourful parade proceeded toward the Port Clements Museum. (photo Haida Gwaii Observer)

Seven arrested for drug trafficking

Queen Charlotte RCMP arrested seven people in connection to a drug trafficking investigation in Skidegate. The RCMP executed a search warrant in Skidegate, resulting in the arrests of two males. Five more people were arrested in the course of the investigation, which began in late 2018, leading to the seizure of 90 grams of crack cocaine, cash and drug paraphernalia.

More ferry sailings

Haida Gwaii’s two BC Ferries routes are among 10 to receive more sailings as the province moves to restore cuts made in 2014. The announcement came as the Ministry of Transportation releases a review on BC Ferries operations by special advisor Blair Redlin.

Cullen calls it quits

Nathan Cullen announced in March that he would not be seeking re-election.

“I’ve had five elections and I’ve been humbled by the love and support that I’ve received across the Northwest for all that we’ve tried to do in our politic. I’ve been incredibly proud in some of our accomplishments; not just protecting the Sacred Headwaters, achieving the Great Bear Rainforest agreement, defending the North Coast from oil tanker traffic and fish farms, but also attracting more attention, putting Skeena back on the map, bringing national attention to what we’re doing in the Northwest because I think we have an incredible story to tell,” he said.

CHN argue in court

The Council of Haida Nations, along with the Heiltsuk Nation and the Little Shuswap Lake Indian Band went to court to argue in favour of the government of B.C.’s right to protect communities and the environment by enacting stronger measures of accountability in the transport of heavy oil.

Heiltsuk and Haida were raising their constitutional concerns and the application of their traditional laws. “If amendments like these had been in place when our community suffered an oil spill, our recovery would be much further along than it is now. Instead, it’s been over two years and we are still in limbo,” Marilyn Slett, elected chief councillor of the Heiltsuk Nation, said. “Regardless of where they occur, spills are a multi-government issue and leaving them in the domain of just one government is bad for the community, bad for business, and bad for the environment.”

Port clements gets cell service

Wireless service in Port Clements went live on March 21 as Telus completed building its $500,000 wireless communication site in the village, bringing high-speed wireless services to surrounding businesses and residents. “Cell service will bring another layer of safety, social and economic well-being to Port Clements residents, connecting us to our neighbouring communities, families and the world,” said Ruby Decock, acting chief administrative officer for the Village of Port Clements.


Rev. Lily Bell of Old Masset is keeping an old tradition going by bearing a cross through the streets of Old Massett on Good Friday after her church service. She has done this for many years. It seems she is bearing the burden of her flock. (Archie Stocker Sr. / Haida Gwaii Observer)

Haida Gwaii witnesses kick off Northwest oil tanker ban hearings

Witnesses from Old Massett to the Nuxalk Nation began testified at the first of a number of Senate hearings looking into the Oil Tanker Moratorium Act, which many coastal B.C. people had been demanding for more than 10 years.

Since 2006, when Enbridge proposed building Northern Gateway, a pipeline to ship diluted bitumen from Alberta to Kitimat, communities along the coast have opposed crude oil tanker traffic in northern waters. After the federal government shut down the Northern Gateway project late 2016, it announced legislation to ban tankers carrying more than 12,500 tonnes of crude oil from unloading at ports between Alaska and B.C., down the North Coast, around Haida Gwaii to the tip of Vancouver Island.

READ MORE: Senate to hold hearings in northwest B.C. on controversial oil tanker ban

Sandspit residents honoured

Two Sandspit residents were honoured April 25 by Governor-General Julie Payette for their life-saving actions following a 2014 float plane crash on Cheney Point near St. John Harbour in the Seaforth Channel on the central coast. Don McNeice and Richard Pick, passengers on the float plane, both received Medals of Bravery for acting under hazardous conditions in removing a passenger and the plane’s pilot from the downed aircraft.

Bear illegally shot

Conservation Officers on Haida Gwaii investigated a bear that was shot illegally near Masset on Crown land. The location of the bear was on Tow Hill road between the Elephant Cage and Eagle Road on the beach side. The bear was directly across from a hydro pole with a bullet hole in it, just inside the treeline 60 feet from the pavement on the highway. The area is known by some residents as a ‘playground’ for ATVs, and people have been known to use firearms illegally.


The thick-skinned Haida Gwaii Co-Op bear braved the Harbour Day parade without a rain jacket or umbrella.

(photo Haida Gwaii Observer)

Edenshaw travels to New York for UN forum on Indigenous issues

A Haida youth spoke of her determination to keep her language alive and thriving at a session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues this week in New York City. Haana Edenshaw, from the Tsitts Gitanee clan, said she was also scared her generation will be the last to hear Haida spoken from someone who was born into the language. Edenshaw’s April 22 speech at a forum session hosted by Canada, Ecuador and the Assembly of First Nations was delivered in Haida. “I will not be stuck speaking only the language of my oppressors on my land. It makes my mind sick,” she said in relating how she is learning the Haida language and of her goals of ensuring it is passed on. “I am determined that my children’s children will once again be born into a world where Haida is spoken all around them. And I hope the same for all Indigenous languages.” Edensaw travelled to New York with the assistance of the Quaker-based Canadian Friends Service Committee. The forum, an annual event, has a special significance because the United Nations has declared 2019 as the International Year of Indigenous Languages.

READ MORE: Haida youth travels to New York for UN forum on Indigenous issues

Senate committee rejects oil tanker moratorium bill, calls into question democratic process

Critics condemned a Senate committee recommendation to reject Bill C-48, which would place a moratorium on oil tankers loading or offloading at ports along B.C.’s north coast. On, May 15, five Conservative senators along with independent Alberta senator, Paula Simons, voted against the Bill C-48 by adopting recommendations that the Senate kill the act altogether. The Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications is made up of 12 members, creating a 6-6 split vote thereby defeating the bill and producing a recommendation to not proceed with the Oil Tanker Moratorium Act (Bill C-48). The senate rejection, then Skeena-Bulkley Valley MO Nathan Cullen said, calls into question Canadian democratic processes. Cullen is concerned that more independent senators will allow big money to find its way further into the Canadian political system, undermining the mandates that citizens voted in favour of.

Bachrach named NDP candidate

Smithers Mayor Taylor Bachrach will be the NDP candidate for Skeena-Bulkley Valley in the federal election. Bachrach won the nomination in a meeting in Terrace May 25 on the first ballot.

Gladstone receives prestigious award

Haida Chelsea Gladstone, on May 22 walked across UBC stage atto accept her Bachelor of Arts degree. Not only was she the first in her family to graduate from a university but just before the official convocation ceremony, she was presented with the prestigious Lieutenant-Governor’s Silver Medal, the first UBC student to be recognized in this fashion. The medal was established in 1979 for students in vocational and career programs of less than two years but was expanded this year to include students in four-year degree programs who, in addition to their studies, promoted inclusion and reconciliation in their extra-curricular activities. That criteria fit Gladstone, 21, perfectly through a combination of her double major in First Nations Indigenous studies and gender, race, sexuality and social justice and her work to establish a support network for UBC Indigenous students.

Grey whale deaths add to growing trend

The three grey whales that washed up on the shores of Haida Gwaii in April-May brought the number of dead greys on B.C.’s coast to five this year. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans worries the deaths may signal an “upward trend” in mortality.

The total number of carcasses found along the migration route from California to Alaska, at the time, totalled 70, according to figures from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA.

READ MORE: Haida Gwaii grey whale deaths add to growing trend


Haida elder Jiixa (Gladys Vandal) is presented with an honorary doctorate by Ralph Nilson, VIU president and vice-chancellor, left, and Louise Mandell, VIU chancellor, at the university’s convocation ceremony Monday.

(photo Chris Bush /The News Bulletin)

100 years for Richardson Ranch

Richardson Ranch, home to seven generations of family, celebrated its 100-year anniversary on Sunday, June 16. The ranch has seen a lot of change over the course of the century — from being a source for locally-produced beef for the residents of Haida Gwaii, to now a veterinary clinic, an agricultural supply centre, and a ranch for bulls. “We are not isolated, we are just geographically challenged,” said Don Richardson, part of the fifth generation at the ranch. “Although a veterinary hospital, along with a farm feed and pet store are major diversifications, the core that binds us all together is still the ranch.” The Richardsons sold fresh beef on Haida Gwaii — from processing the beef, to wrapping each cut, and taking the family’s truck, lined with cotton sheets, down to the dock with beef ready for sale.

Queen Charlotte name change

Village of Queen Charlotte Mayor Kris Olsen says council will respectfully and diligently explore a request to change the municipality’s name to a Haida place name, but the process could take years. “We have to go slow,” says Olsen. “No decision has been made yet. The elders have brought forward the name and we still have to have a discussion with the Hereditary Chiefs.” Skidegate Haida Immersion Program (SHIP) elders and staff submitted a formal request to Queen Charlotte council on April 28 to begin the discussion with the hereditary chiefs of Xaayda Gwaay and the Council of the Haida Nation. Olsen notes that within the modern-day boundaries of Queen Charlotte, there are many ancient village sites, each with their own place names.

READ MORE: Will the Village of Queen Charlotte change its name?

Long before any decisions are made thorough discussions will need to take place with all stakeholders. Council discussed the matter at a committee of the whole meeting earlier this month. Olsen says he and council are happy to explore the request, as the restoration of place names is identified in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and by Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission as important steps to reconciliation. While the village explores the possibility, Olsen says there are other measures the village can take in the short term to promote the revitalization of the Haida language. This includes flying a CHN flag at the village offices alongside the flag of the Village of Queen Charlotte, and adding Haida interpretations to the English street signage. Staff will begin looking at the cost involved and bring the conversation to SHIP elders. Olsen says he doesn’t believe the municipality should cover those costs. Olsen says a conversation will also begin with non-Haida residents of the municipality right away.

READ MORE: Queen Charlotte name change will be a long process

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