Islands communities confirm support for existing Gwaii Trust representation structure

On February 9, representatives of all islands governments met with Gwaii Trust directors to discuss Gwaii Trust representation.

Since the Gwaii Trust was formed in 1994, its board has been made up of one chair plus eight directors representing the islands communities: one director from each of Old Massett, Skidegate, Graham Island North, Graham Island Central, Graham Island South, and Moresby Island; and two directors from the Council of the Haida Nation. (The names and boundaries of the civic areas were changed slightly in 200 to recognize Queen Charlotte.) This created a board that is large enough to represent the variety of communities here, and most importantly, has equal representation from both the Haida and civic communities.

As the Gwaii Trust reviewed its bylaws last year to bring them in line with the province’s new Societies Act, some communities questioned whether the current structure should be changed. Their concerns centered on the civic communities, and the challenges of combining municipalities with rural areas. The municipality of Masset, for example, shares its Gwaii Trust representative with the unincorporated community of Tow Hill, while Port Clements shares a representative with Tlell and other rural areas of Central Graham Island, and the South Graham Island area contains Queen Charlotte as well as Miller Creek and Lawnhill.

During the Feb. 9 meeting, community representatives and Gwaii Trust directors carefully considered the pros and cons of the current model, and talked about other options. After thorough discussion, they decided the existing Gwaii Trust representation works well and should stay as it is. All present at the meeting voted in favour of keeping the existing model.

Gwaii Trust chair Sk’aal Ts’iid, James Douglas Cowpar, said the discussion conveyed a strong sense of community pride and a willingness to work together to improve the well-being of Haida Gwaii.

“Like a breath of fresh air, it was refreshing to see community representatives come together to support one another no matter how big or small the need, and commit to working together to improve the community of Haida Gwaii,” he said.

“Among the Islands’ leadership there is no appetite for changing the representation structure of the Trust, it has served our Islands’ community well for many years,” said Evan Putterill, North Coast Regional District Area E Director. “That being said, Masset brought up very legitimate concerns regarding the different infrastructure and funding needs of each community. I feel that we all left the room invigorated and looking forward to working together to make Haida Gwaii stronger.”

“Our diverse communities work together to support the health of the Islands as a whole and we have turned to Gwaii Trust to help bridge the economic and social transitions of our present day,” said North Coast Regional District Area D Director Johanne Young. “We are rich in culture, nature and diverse populations that honour inclusion, which our Gwaii Trust Board continues to support in their vision and structure representing us all with equal opportunity.”

Carla Lutner
Chief Operations Officer, Gwaii Trust Society