Ha-Shilth-Sa Newspaper February 25, 2021

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INTERESTING NEWS Canada’s Oldest First Nations Newspaper - Serving Nuu-chah-nulth-aht since 1974 Canadian Publications Mail Product Vol. 48 - No. 04—February 25, 2021 haas^i>sa Sales Agreement No. 40047776

Photo by Eric Plummer

By mid February Jacquie Dennis had been without hot water in her bachelor apartment within Port Alberni’s Beaufort Hotel for a month.

A month without hot water for Beaufort Hotel tenant Failure of a landlord to provide an essential service is grounds for financial compensation, says legal advocate By Eric Plummer Ha-Shilth-Sa Editor Port Alberni, BC - As winter drags on, Jacquie Dennis is hoping the situation in her apartment will improve soon, where Dennis and her sister Josie have been without hot water for a month. The problem started in mid January, when all of the 21 suites in the Beaufort Convention Centre were without hot water. By the end of the month Beaufort management installed a new hot water tank, amending the problem for those in the Uptown Port Alberni building – except Jacquie and Josie, who live next to each other on the second floor. “They sort of fixed the problem the first day. Some people had hot water, some people didn’t. The guy came back again the next day,” recalled Jacquie, who shares the $750-a-month apartment with her son Stephane. “It’s only these two rooms here that don’t have hot water now.” Over the last month she’s had to rely on family and friends for warm showers, while washing dishes is a challenge. “It goes luke warm and then it goes ice

cold,” said Jacquie, noting that Beaufort management has assured her over the last month that hot water will return. “They just kept saying ‘It’s getting fixed, it’s getting fixed’.” Heather Depencier of the Beaufort’s management said that the problem is being handled. “We are dealing with it. We’ve just had the plumber leave here again today,” she told Ha-Shilth-Sa on Wednesday, Feb. 17. “He actually has to buy two new hot water tanks now. We’re waiting for parts, but with COVID it’s taking too long to get parts for it.” Depencier added that the building, which is commonly known as the Beaufort Hotel, had to buy two new hot water tanks. “I think the tanks have had it and I don’t think they can’t be fixed anymore. We can’t even get parts brought in,” she said. “They will have the tank tomorrow or Saturday for sure.” Regardless of what happens, failure to provide hot water is a clear breach of provincial laws that hold a landlord accountable, said Rob Patterson, a lawyer with the Tenant Resource and Advocacy

Inside this issue... Union and Huu-ay-aht pledge forestry co-operation..Page 3 Shelter Society granted $1M for recovery beds.........Page 5 Working to keep families together..............................Page 8 KCFN joins regional district.....................................Page 11 Carving a dugout canoe in the forest........................Page 15

Centre. According to B.C.’s Residential Tenancy Act, a landlord must maintain a property that “makes it suitable for occupation by a tenant”. “Especially where hot water is not provided for an extended period of time - especially in the winter - I think a tenant has a strong case that that’s a pretty serious breach of the landlord’s obligations under the Residential Tenancy Act,” said Patterson. “When those services and facilities are essential to the use of the unit, then a landlord always has that obligation, they can’t choose not to provide it or withdraw that service. Hot water is classified as an essential service, so if a landlord doesn’t provide it to a tenant, they are in breach of the Residential Tenancy Act.” If an essential service isn’t being provided, a renter can contact the provincial Residential Tenancy Branch, which can grant a legal order for the landlord to fix the problem or even determine financial compensation for the tenant due to the inconvenience. Patterson advises tenants to document correspondence with landlords when

possible, or to collect evidence such as text messages, emails, notes or statements from witnesses if these are required by an arbitrator with the Residential Tenancy Branch. “The first thing the tenant has to do is inform the landlord of the problem, preferably in writing,” he said. “The landlord’s obligation to fix the problem only really kicks in once they know it’s a problem.” “A tenant doesn’t need a perfect written record to be successful, but they need something proving what actually happened,” added Patterson. “If it’s a repair issue that needs to be fixed in the future, they can ask for a rent reduction until the repair is completed, which puts an incentive on the landlord to do the work and earn back the right to collect full rent.” The Residential Tenancy Brach can be contacted at 1-800-665-8779 or information is available at https://www2.gov. bc.ca/gov/content/housing-tenancy/residential-tenancies. The Tenant Resource and Advisory Centre can be reached at 1-800-665-1185.

If undeliverable, please return to: Ha-Shilth-Sa P.O. Box 1383, Port Alberni, B.C. V9Y 7M2


Page 2— Ha-Shilth-Sa—February 25, 2021

Union and Huu-ay-aht pledge forestry co-operation Memorandum of understanding with First Nation and Steelworkers outlines training, jobs and wood supply By Mike Youds Ha-Shilth-Sa Contributor More harvestable timber along with more family-supporting forest sector jobs are expected through an agreement between Huu-ay-aht First Nations and United Steelworkers Local 1-1937. Union local management and HFN leaders signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) Feb. 18, committing to work together to ensure “undercut volume” within Tree Farm Licence 44 (TFL 44) is allocated to the First Nation while developing training and jobs in the forest industry. In essence, the two pledge to work together in the interest of reconciliation by increasing employment, Indigenous participation and harvesting opportunities in the region’s forest sector. The union also commits to advance reconciliation with First Nations on TFL 44 and — if the undercut volume goes to HFN — to provide job security, training and other benefits for USW members. Tree farm licences are an area-based form of provincially controlled tenure, granting exclusive rights to licensees to harvest, manage and conserve forest. Much of TFL 44 — 232,000 hectares of forest land east of Alberni Inlet — lies within traditional Huu-ay-aht territory. Despite increased participation in the industry by Huu-ay-aht workers since the mid-1990s, HFN’s historic focus on the logging business and a $36-million investment in the forest sector in 2020, only one Huu-ay-aht is a USW member. The number will jump by 10 in a pilot project over the next year and eventually grow to more than 50 workers through a long-term plan outlined in the MOU. Collaboration can bring mutual benefits for a stronger future with the ability to advance reconciliation, said Chief Coun-

Photo by Denise Titian

Head Hereditary Chief Derek Peters signs a document during an event in Anacla celebrating a new partnership between the Huu-ay-aht First Nations and Western Forest Products in 2019. sellor Robert Dennis Sr. A long-term plan to create 50-plus “Signing the memorandum of underwell-paid, long-term USW jobs on TFL standing is really a strong signal that both 44 for Huu-ay-aht citizens and other First Huu-ay-aht and United Steelworkers are Nations citizens within TFL 44; ready to work together and benefit their A pilot project to place 10 Huu-ayrespective members,” he said. aht workers in USW jobs with TFL 44 Undercut volume or “undercut carry woodlands contractors over the next 12 forward” refers to harvestable timber months; and included in a TFL’s annual allowable cut A long-term conditional job-creation but left unharvested. In the case of TFL and training plan if TFL 44 undercut is 44, the current licensee has undercut. awarded to Huu-ay-aht, including retireThere is no guarantee the undercut volment incentives, workforce training, prefume will be awarded to HFN’s Huumiss erential hiring and other considerations. Ventures. Dennis said the signing also acknowl“It’s certainly our intent to make an apedges USW’s commitment to respecting plication,” Dennis said. Huu-ay-aht values within the Ḥahuuli While not legally binding, an MOU of the Huu-ay-aht Ḥaw̓iiḥ (Huu-ay-aht formally recognizes conditions mutually traditional territory) and the UN Declaraagreed upon, in this case stipulating: tion on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. A commitment to continue harvesting Huu-ay-aht’s three sacred principles — the undercut volume with a USW certihishuk ish tsawalk (everything is one), fied workforce; uu-a-thluk (taking care of) and iisaak

(utmost respect) — are included among MOU conditions. “USW’s commitment to reconciliation and recognition of the Maa-nulth Treaty demonstrates a respect for our citizens, current hereditary (Ḥaw̓iiḥ) and elected councils, and honours the generations that came before us,” said Head Hereditary Chief Derek Peters. “Today’s announcement signals another step toward healing and creating a brighter future for present and future generations.” Local 1-1937 represents unionized forest sector workers throughout coastal B.C. Brian Butler, president of the local, said this is the first time the 6,100-member local has signed such an understanding. “Over time, USW members have been impacted by the loss of harvesting opportunities, and we are confident that as we continue to build our relationship with Huu-ay-aht, we will not only advance our members’ interests, we will expand our joint interests in the Alberni Valley forest sector,” Butler said. “I know that Chief Dennis has a vision for their people that works with our own vision for our own members,” he added. “They are looking to create good, well-paying jobs for people to draw them back to the community and we are very supportive.” In March 2020, Huumiis Ventures LP acquired additional shares for a majority stake in TFL 44 and a seven percent share in the Alberni Pacific sawmill from Western Forest Products (WFP). Part of that deal grants Huumiis the option of buying additional shares and, potentially, a majority interest in the mill. Reconciliation and forestry revitalization were also emphasized in that transaction, building on a reconciliation protocol HFN and WFP signed in 2018.

Tofino Bus awaits funding news from province By Sam Laskaris Ha-Shilth-Sa Contributor Tofino, BC – Motor coach officials throughout the province are anxiously anticipating a provincial government announcement which is expected in the next few days. This includes representatives from the Wilson’s Group of Companies, which operates the Tofino Bus. Vancouver Island’s lone intercity bus service has not operated since this past December. It was forced to shut down to follow B.C. health regulations that were put in place to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. Even though B.C.’s regulations were scheduled to be lifted Feb. 12, it was announced earlier this month the Tofino Bus would not hit the road again unless the provincial government provided the company with a $3 million subsidy to offset its massive drop in ridership. An encouraging sign the government might be ready to provide some type of support was the fact Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Rob Fleming met with officials from the Wilson’s Group of Companies this past Friday (Feb. 19) in a Zoom call. Three other MLAs representing Vancouver Island ridings also took part in the meeting. They were Lana Popham (Saanich South), Murray Rankin (Oak Bay-Gordon Head) and Grace Lore

(Victoria-Beacon Hill). Ideally, representatives from the Wilson’s Group of Companies would have liked to hear at Friday’s meeting that the provincial government would be providing money for its requested subsidy. But that wasn’t the case. “Minister Fleming told us they are working on something,” said Samantha Wilson, the brand manager for the Wilson’s Group of Companies. “They are working with the Ministry of Finance trying to work out something for the whole motor coach sector.” Wilson said that Fleming told the company last Friday they could expect a provincial announcement within 7-10 days. Prior to last Friday’s meeting, Wilson’s reps had sent 32 letters of support as well as a petition with more than 10,000 signatures to Fleming’s office. Various First Nations and mayors were among those who had provided support letters. But now it appears the provincial government will not be only addressing Wilson’s subsidy request but also looking to help out the motor coach industry throughout British Columbia. That would include members of the BC Trucking Association, which has a motor coach component, and the BC Motor Coach Coalition, which Wilson’s is a member of. Wilson said it is not only her company which is experiencing tough times because of the pandemic.

“The motor coach industry right across Canada is struggling quite a bit now,” she said. To help get the message out that financial assistance is required, the BC Motor Coach Coalition has published a 15-page information package titled the BC Motor Coach COVID-19 Relief Report. In a section on the impact of COVID-19, the report states the motor coach industry started to feel the impacts of the pandemic in January of 2020, when clients from Asia and Europe, who make up a large percentage of travelers to B.C., started cancelling their trips. The report added it is expected to take 20 months at minimum for the motor coach industry to recover, with a return to no more than 50 per cent of revenues expected for 2021. The Tofino Bus services 21 First Nations or organizations, plus 29 communities on Vancouver Island’s west coast. Because of the pandemic though, its revenues have plummeted almost 95 per cent since last March, when the Tofino Bus service was originally shut down. It resumed last July but when the pandemic’s second wave arrived service was shut down again in the fall. Wilson said it wouldn’t make financial sense for the company to resume its normal services with the current low number of riders. That’s why it has requested the $3 million subsidy in order to continue its operations for the next 12 months. The company was operating the Tofino

Samantha Wilson Bus seven days per week. It provided a total of 82,500 trips in 2019, the last full year of service prior to the pandemic. Wilson said if the provincial government does indeed offer some sort of financial assistance to her company which is less than its requested amount, then decisions will have to be made on how often routes will run. “Our goal is to be up and running again,” she said. “But it would really depend on what that dollar amount is. We might be looking at service that is 3-4 days a week instead of seven days a week or maybe fewer buses on the road each day.” Wilson added if Wilson’s does receive some sort of financial package from the government, it wouldn’t take too long for the Tofino Bus service to start up again.


February 25, 2021—Ha-Shilth-Sa—Page 3

Health officials optimistic despite vaccine shortage Hope remains that all of British Columbia’s Indigenous communities will receive shots by the end of March By Denise Titian Ha-Shilth-Sa Reporter British Columbia – It has been over 50 days since the province began the rollout of COVID-19 vaccine to Indigenous communities and FNHA is reporting that over 18,100 units have been administered – mostly first shots. According to the First Nations Health Authority, 18,100 units of vaccine have been administered on reserve with an additional 3,000 doses delivered to Indigenous people in urban centers, such as Vancouver. Vice-President, Public Heath Response Team, Katie Hughes said that FNHA is working with provincial health authorities to get vaccination clinics to places like the Vancouver Aboriginal Friendship Centre and in downtown shelters. Dr. Shannon McDonald, FNHA’s acting chief medical officer, noted that there was a post-holiday season spike of cases at Indigenous communities in the first half of January 2021. “There were 1,000 active cases at the time, and we’ve suffered some loses,” she added. McDonald went on to say that some communities were dealing with cluster cases, but some of those are resolving. As of Friday Feb. 17, there were 278 active cases among the Aboriginal population in B.C. There is a vaccine shortage in the province and health officials were concerned that they may not meet the provincial government’s goal of inoculating all

Submitted photo

Nurses with the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council were in Ahousaht on Jan. 6, which was among British Columbia’s first Indigenous communities to receive inoculation. willing adults in B.C.’s 203 Indigenous Indigenous communities for the vaccine. She noted that FNHA is using all doses it communities by the end of March. has received. On Vancouver Island, 16 Indigenous communities have received first doses of Hugues says the vaccine has reached more than 90 Indigenous communities in the vaccine. Innoculation started in anthe province to date with another dozen other five locations on Vancouver Island, or so communities hosting clinics in the but there weren’t enough doses for all willing adults. coming days. Health authorities hope to have updated “Five (communities) are partially done information in the next month about vacand there’s 30 more left to do,” said cine availability and clinics for AborigiHughes. Dr. McDonald noted that bad nal people living away from home. weather in the second week of FebruAccording to FNHA, it will take 42,000 ary has hampered delivery of vaccine to first doses to cover all willing people over some communities. the age of 18 in B.C. First Nations comMcDonald says that the Ministry of munities. Health remains committed to prioritizing

Dr. McDonald stated that Indigenous communities are raising concerns about emerging COVID-19 variants, but have no information that any of the different strains of the highly infectious disease have reached First Nations. She noted that provincial health authorities carry out testing for variants and have not indicated that the new strains are affecting Indigenous communities at this point. Dr. Nel Wieman, FNHA’s acting deputy chief medical officer, noted that the prolonged pandemic, the uncertainty and social isolation has created stress in the communities. “The vaccine roll-out is creating a new set of stressors,” she said, adding that people are wondering when it will be their turn for the vaccine or asking if the vaccine is even safe. She said that the FNHA is working hard to build confidence in the safety of the vaccine. “It (vaccine) is the best way to stay safe,” she added. FNHA and Indigenous leaders are also hearing from people living off-reserve asking to go home to be vaccinated. Not only is this not permitted due to the shortage of vaccine, but it is not safe. Health authorities are asking people not to travel during pandemic to avoid risk of spreading the virus. In the year since the pandemic started, 78 Indigenous people in British Columbia have died of COVID-19. More than half were people living on-reserve. “We grieve with the families and our hearts go out to them,” said Wieman.

Communities begin receiving second immunization By Denise Titian Ha-Shilth-Sa Reporter Ehatis, BC – The people of Ehattesaht are breathing a sigh of relief after wrapping up their second COVID-19 immunization clinic that saw a majority of their adults receiving their second and final shot of vaccine. Darlene Smith of Ehattesaht said that their small community of 100 saw 28 cases of COVID-19, beginning in November. The outbreak caused concern for the ones that became very ill, but none required hospitalization and all eventually recovered. On Feb. 16 a team of four NTC nurses and a local nurse from Zeballos set up a vaccination clinic for those who had already received the first shot. The clinic was set up for the people of Ehattesaht and Nuchatlaht. According to Smith, some adults over the age of 18 declined the vaccination, leaving extra doses of vaccine. As in the first clinic, extra doses of vaccine were offered to Zeballos residents who interact on a regular basis with the people of Ehattesaht. Extra doses of vaccine were offered to health workers, school staff, volunteer firefighters and others that provide services to Ehattesaht. Smith said she was relieved to have people in the community vaccinated. “The process is over. Now we just need our people living away from home to get it,” said Smith of the inoculation. She went on to say that there is a little

bit of relief knowing her people are fully vaccinated, but she pointed out that people who have had COVID-19 before can get it again. “But now that they are vaccinated, if they were to contract COVID-19 again, they should not get as sick,” she said. In Ahousaht, Chief Councillor Greg Louie said that a team of six NTC nurses and a paramedic came to the village to administer second vaccine shots. Ahousaht has a population of about 1,000 people. In both Ehattesaht and Ahousaht, the second set of vaccination clinics were only for those who received first shots. Those that missed first rounds of vaccine could not get shots at these follow-up clinics. In addition, the vaccine was offered to residents only, meaning that band members couldn’t travel from urban areas to get the shot. Louie said that nurses would be making home visits to residents with mobility challenges. On Feb. 22 more than 170 Ahousaht residents received their second Moderna shots. More than 500 doses of vaccine went to Ahousaht in January for the first round of vaccinations. Not all doses were used but were offered up to other communities. The three-day immunization clinic scheduled for Ahousaht had to be delayed after the first day due to a funeral. The vaccination clinic is set to resume for two additional days on Feb. 24.

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Photo submitted by Ehattesaht First Nation

Ehattesaht Chief Simon John and his council Ashley John, Tim John and Cory Hanson, are relieved to have second round of COVID-19 immunizations done after a cluster outbreak in their community in December 2020.


Page 4— Ha-Shilth-Sa—February 25, 2021 Ha-Shilth-Sa newspaper is published by the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council for distribution to the members of the NTC-member First Nations, as well as other interested groups and individuals. Information and original work contained in this newspaper is protected by copyright and may not be reproduced without written permission from: Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council P.O. Box 1383, Port Alberni, B.C. V9Y 7M2. Telephone: (250) 724-5757 Fax: (250) 723-0463 Web page: www.hashilthsa.com facebook: Hashilthsa Ntc

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2020 Subscription rates: $35 per year in Canada and $40 per year in the U.S.A. and $45 per year in foreign countries. Payable to the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council. Manager/Editor/Reporter Eric Plummer (Ext. 243) (250) 724-5757 Fax: (250) 723-0463 eric.plummer@nuuchahnulth.org Reporter Denise Titian (Ext. 240) (250) 724-5757 Fax: (250) 723-0463 denise.titian@nuuchahnulth.org Reporter Melissa Renwick (416) 436-4277 Fax: (250) 723-0463 melissa.renwick@nuuchahnulth.org

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DEADLINE: Please note that the deadline for submissions for our next issue is March 5, 2021 After that date, material submitted and judged appropriate cannot be guaranteed placement but, if material is still relevant, will be included in the following issue. In an ideal world, submissions would be typed rather than hand-written. Articles can be sent by e-mail to holly.stocking@nuuchahnulth.org (Windows PC). Submitted pictures must include a brief description of subject(s) and a return address. Pictures with no return address will remain on file. Allow two - four weeks for return. Photocopied or faxed photographs cannot be accepted.

Photo by Melissa Renwick

Development of a 14-unit affordable housing project has begun on Sharp Road, in Tofino, on Feb. 16.

Affordable rentals coming to Tofino By Melissa Renwick Local Journalism Initiative Reporter Tofino, BC - Affordable housing in Tofino has been a longstanding issue the community has grappled with for years. Renowned for its natural beauty and cultural richness, Ian Scott, Tofino Housing Corporation (THC) interim executive director, said that people are “chasing Tofino as a place to live having made money elsewhere, or choosing Tofino as a place to own a second home.” In 2018, the median assessed value of single-family home in Tofino was $647,500, a 39 per cent increase from 2012, according to the 2018 Clayoquot Sound Biosphere Region’s Vital Signs report. The result has placed a “significant amount of pressure” on the people who are working in the various tourist sectors within the coastal community. “They are not able to find accommodation, so businesses have invested in staff accommodation and that has included buying up property,” said Scott. “I have sympathy for those business because there’s not another good option.” In a move to address the issue, THC has begun the development of a 14-unit affordable housing project at 700 Sharp

Road. Partnering with Catalyst Community Developments Society, four onebedroom units, four two-bedroom units and six three-bedroom units will be up for grabs. Upon completion, the one-bedroom units will be rented to residents with a household income of under $51,0000 for $875-$1,125 per month. The twobedroom units will be available to residents with a household income of under $81,000 and rented for $1,100-$1,550 each month. And the three-bedroom units will be available to residents with a household income of under $91,000 and will be rented for $1,220-$1,725 every month. Priority will be given to residents who work in Tofino full-time and have been living in the region for two of the last three years. Catalyst Community Developments Society will be taking applications from interested households towards the end of 2021. According to the Vital Signs report, the region’s living wage is $20.11, making it the third highest living wage in B.C., behind Vancouver and Victoria. The province’s current minimum wage is $15.20 – $4.91 lower than the region’s living wage. “We’re happy to see affordable housing

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COVERAGE: Although we would like to be able to cover all stories and events, we will only do so subject to: - Sufficient advance notice addressed specifically to Ha-Shilth-Sa. - Reporter availability at the time of the event. - Editorial space available in the paper. - Editorial deadlines being adhered to by contributors.

being advanced in the region,” said Saya Masso, Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation tribal administrator. In many ways, Scott said that Tla-o-quiaht First Nation is “ahead of the district” in addressing housing needs with their previous development of Esowista and future expansion plans. Currently, the nation is in “high-level” discussions with the province on the transfer of several Crown land lots in Tofino. District lot 124, near Best Western Plus Tin Wis Resort, was transferred to the nation, but they are awaiting five additional lots. Once the land is transferred to Tla-oqui-aht, Masso said they will begin the design phase of a sub-development that would target affordable housing for the region in the coming years. “It is a topic [yet] to be resolved,” he said. Instead of developing one lot at a time, Masso said the nation is waiting on the land transfer so that they can create a “best use and best opportunity plan for the Crown lots.” “Affordable housing in Tofino is critically needed,” he said. “Let’s plan the properties properly.”

Ha-Shilth-Sa belongs to every Nuu-chah-nulth person including those who have passed on, and those who are not yet born. A community newspaper cannot exist without community involvement. If you have any great pictures you’ve taken, stories or poems you’ve written, or artwork you have done, please let us know so we can include it in your newspaper. E-mail holly.stocking@nuuchahnulth.org. This year is Ha-Shilth-Sa’s 47th year of serving the Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations. We look forward to your continued input and support. Kleco! Kleco!

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February 25, 2021—Ha-Shilth-Sa—Page 5

Shelter society granted $1M for long-term recovery New three-year addictions recovery program starts in April south of Port Alberni with six spaces for women By Karly Blats Ha-Shilth-Sa Contributor Port Alberni, BC - The Port Alberni Shelter Society (PASS) has received $1 million in funding from the provincial government for six long-term recovery beds for women. The province recently announced $13 million for more than 100 new adult treatment and recovery beds in 14 organizations for people struggling with substance-use challenges in B.C. The six beds in Port Alberni will be located at the Port Alberni Shelter Society’s new Therapeutic Recovery Community located at the Shelter Farm, about 10 minutes from Port Alberni at 725 Franklin River Road. Wes Hewitt, PASS executive director, said the six recovery beds will be part of a three-year program. “We’re moving towards opening a therapeutic community and generally most therapeutic communities are a two-year or longer stay because it takes time to make a major change in someone’s life,” Hewitt said. “When you come out of treatment at 28 or 45 or 60 days you’ve got hopefully the tools to start to make a change in your life but you need those ongoing supports to make sure that it happens. That’s the idea of recovery beds.” Hewitt said the success rate of recovery and moving toward an abstinence base is much greater if the recovery process is long term.

In a PASS report, it states Therapeutic Recovery Communities are proven approaches for treatment of addiction and trauma, and re-entry into the broader community. These communities are a longer-term residential treatment option that helps individuals heal wholly and have success rates as high as 76 per cent. Hewitt said the therapeutic community will open in April and will only be available for six female individuals for now. He said PASS is working with other government agencies and Island Health for referrals for the program. Therapeutic Recovery Communities are free for residents to attend. “Within the recovery model there is education, as in skills and empowering the individual so that when it’s time that they graduate from the program they have a job, something that can pay the bills and they have a home to go to,” Hewitt said. “They’re not just dumped on the street or dumped back into the same situation that they were in before.” There is currently no Therapeutic Recovery Community on Vancouver Island for women in need of support. “We’re excited. We’ve identified gaps in services in the community for years and we’re to fulfill those needs and this is one of the things,” Hewitt said. “From first contact with an individual we can now work through everything from housing to treatment to entering back into the community as a productive person in society. Hopefully we can make some positive changes in some individuals’ lives in our

Photo submitted by Port Alberni Shelter Society

In April the Port Alberni Shelter Society plans to open six spaces for a Therapeutic Recovery Community at a farm (pictured) the society currently runs south of Port Alberni. community.” Of the more than 100 beds receiving funding from the province, 46 will be new spaces in existing treatment and recovery organizations. The remaining beds will be converted from private-pay beds to fully funded public ones for people who cannot afford private rates and to help cut wait times for public treatment. Funding was allocated in two streams to residential treatment services and supportive recovery services.

This online film program will bring together Hesquiaht Nation youth to learn film making skills and produce short films about community Elders, with a focus on Hesquiaht language learning. h=ah=uupac~akukqin is Hesquiaht for “our teachings informed by knowledge holders.” The youth will receive h=ah=uupa “informed teachings” from Elders, and will become h=ah=uupc~uu “well-taught.” In this FREE program, you will: • Learn how to plan, shoot, and edit a short film • Receive a FREE software license for Adobe Premiere Rush • Receive a $100 honourarium • Get creative, make new friends, and have fun

We are looking for young people who: • Are excited to learn filmmaking! • Are between the ages 15-30 and from the Hesquiaht Nation • Are available for ALL 6 program sessions listed below • Have access to a smartphone or video camera • Have access to a computer,can run Zoom and Adobe Premiere Rush.

The program will run: March 22 March 24 March 26 March 29 March 31 April 2

4:00 -5:30pm 4:00 -5:30pm 4:00 -5:30pm 4:00 -5:30pm 4:00 -5:30pm 4:00 -5:30pm

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A news release from the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions states the additional beds will increase access to addictions treatment and recovery bedbased services in every health authority by bringing beds into the public system. The beds will also help to address longstanding service gaps for Indigenous peoples, women, rural and remote communities and people transitioning from corrections.

APPLICATION FOR PESTICIDE USE Pesticide Use Permit (PUP) application #886-0004-21-23 Applicant: Cermaq Canada Ltd., 203-919 Island Highway, Campbell River BC V9W 2C2, 250-286-0022 Application has been made to the Ministry of Environment for approval of a Pesticide Use Permit for the topical removal of sea lice on aquaculture finfish. The pest control product Interox® Paramove® 50, active ingredient Hydrogen Peroxide (H2O2), will be used in the marine environment only in accordance with the directions as per the product label and PMRA. Application of Paramove® will take place in a well boat designed specifically for this purpose. Treatment locations are leased from the Province of BC, licence of occupation LF number1403647, 1406648, 1403293, 1408719 & 1405993 located within Herbert Inlet, Millar Channel and Shelter Inlet in the Clayoquot Region, the proposed treatment area totals 5.9ha. Proposed treatment start date is April 19, 2021 with intermittent use over three years ending April 18, 2024. Maps of the treatment area and copies of the permit application can be viewed at Cermaq Canada Ltd. at the address above or visit https://www. cermaq.ca/public-trust/public-reporting. A person wishing to contribute information about the treatment site for the evaluation of this permit application must send copies of the information to both the applicant at the address above and the administrator under the Integrated Pest Management Act at Ministry of Environment; 10470 152 St, Surrey, BC V3R 0Y3 within 30 days of the publication of this notice.


Page 6— Ha-Shilth-Sa—February 25, 2021

Medical treatment needed to stop overdose deaths With the pandemic illicit drug fatalities surged, leading to calls for decriminalization and medical alternatives By Eric Plummer Ha-Shilth-Sa Editor Victoria, BC - Last year was the deadliest yet for fatal overdoses in B.C., and while many are calling for the decriminalization of street drugs, those with a close eye on the crisis are looking to medical professionals to take a larger role in prescribing safer alternatives. For the better part of a decade deaths from illicit drug use rose in British Columbia - until progress with the public health crisis was evident when fatalities dropped by 64 per cent in 2019 to 984. But these positive gains reversed when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, resulting in 1,716 illicit drug deaths in 2020, a 74 per cent increase over the previous year. There are now more deaths in B.C. due to illicit drug use than suicide, car crashes and homicide combined, and over 2020 overdose fatalities far exceeded the 901 attributed to COVID-19. “One of the most insidious impacts of the pandemic has been increased toxicity due to disruption on the supply chain for illicit drugs across the country,” said Sheila Malcolmson, B.C.’s minister of Addictions and Mental Health, after last year’s fatal tally was announced by the B.C. Coroners Service on Feb. 11. “We stepped up our response to this emergency in B.C., but the illicit drug supply is dramatically more toxic than a year ago - and tragically, more lethal. Combined with the stigma that drives people to use alone and a pandemic that isolates them even further, you have a recipe for a terrible surge in overdose deaths.” The overdose crisis has hit First Nations particularly hard. In 2019 First Nations people were almost four times more likely to die of a drug overdose than other B.C. residents. Statistics released from the First Nations Health Authority indicate that the pandemic made the situation more severe, as the fatality rate increased to 5.6 times higher than other people in

Province of BC video still

On Feb. 11 Chief Coroner Lisa Lapointe presented last year’s total of confirmed and suspected deaths due to illicit drug use. B.C., based on data collected from January to May 2020. As she presented the latest numbers, Chief Coroner Lisa Lapointe emphasized the urgency for widespread change in how illicit drug use is handled in the province. “What we’ve seen is decades and decades of treating problematic substance use disorder, addiction, as a criminal activity,” she said. “In many ways the policies that we have in place, have had in place for decades, have been a boon for illicit drug users and illicit drug suppliers because that’s where people have to go.” During the coroner’s press conference Leslie McBain of the advocacy group Moms Stop the Harm noted that the public’s view of illicit drug users has hindered how governments and agencies responded to the overdose crisis. “The response to COVID was coordinated, and it was strong,” she said. “The response to drug deaths by toxic supply

has been sketchy, it has had huge gaps in it, it has not been attended to in the ways that it needs to be done.” One proven means of preventing more deaths is offering supervised locations for drug users, as the coroner reported that not one fatality has been reported from these sites. In Port Alberni use of the Overdose Prevention Site on Third Avenue dropped during the early weeks of the pandemic, but has since returned to high numbers, and hours of operation have even been extended to 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week. “Everybody thinks of an illicit drug user as somebody who is part of the marginalized people. That’s a fallacy,” said Wes Hewitt, executive director of the Port Alberni Shelter Society, which runs the OPS. “There’s a far greater number of people that use substances that are working people that have a house, have a career and a job, and are weekend users.” To attend to the stigma of drug use and

free up more police resources, Malcolmson spoke of working with the federal government to approve the decriminalization of illicit drugs. But police have already taken their focus away from drug possession, said Chief Constable Mike Serr of the Abbotsford Police Department during the coroner’s press conference. “We are operating as if simple possession of illicit drugs is decriminalized,” he said. “The role of front-line policing has shifted to a harm-reduction approach.” “The police aren’t prosecuting most average drug users, so I don’t really see that just decriminalization is going to make a great difference,” commented Hewitt. “What we need is a combination of decriminalization and a new approach, a better approach, to treatment in dealing with the individuals.” Besides visits, referrals to treatment and opioid antagonist treatment has increased at the Port Alberni site in recent months. Lapointe stressed the role of medical professionals in diverting more users to safer, prescribed medications to shoulder their addictions. She wants physicians to immediately know what to do if a drug user comes to them with an addiction problem. “What is the one thing that could stop those deaths? It is a safe, regulated, legal pharmaceutical supply of drugs that is available to people with substance use disorder,” added McBain. Hewitt is seeing the system slowly change towards more prescriptions for pharmaceutical alternatives. “Primarily we’ve got a couple of doctors, there’s other doctors that are starting to come on board,” he said. But this is not necessarily an easy transition for physicians, cautioned Hewitt. “They have to take training,” he noted. “For the average doctor, that’s just one more thing on his plate. Their practices are generally full, and they’re full with predominantly clients that don’t necessarily need that.”

Rising rental prices add to Alberni’s affordability gap By Karly Blats Ha-Shilth-Sa Contributor Port Alberni, BC - Increasing rental and house prices in Port Alberni continue to create an affordability gap for low to moderate-income households, but less expensive housing units and multi-family dwaellings are on the way for the Valley. A Housing Needs Report presented to Port Alberni city council on Feb. 22 showed that between 2006 and 2016 the average rent in Port Alberni increased by 37 per cent, but the median income for renters fell by 0.9 per cent. The report also indicated that since 2015 housing prices have increased by about 53 per cent. Information for the Housing Needs Report was collected through Census data, an online public survey through the City of Port Alberni and ACRD and BC Housing. “Through this project we’ve certainly observed Port Alberni continues to experience a unique set of housing challenges specific to this community,” said Katelyn McDougall, manager of planning with the City of Port Alberni. “Many people are struggling to afford housing with rising rent and purchase prices, low vacancy rates and lower median household incomes. The city is also mostly made up of larger, older single-family homes

leaving many people without affordable, smaller and easily maintainable alternatives.” According to the report, data from 2016 shows 68 per cent of households in the Alberni Valley are owner households and 32 per cent are rentals. Seventy-three per cent of households have one or two people living in them and 12.5 per cent are single parent households. Almost 70 per cent of housing in the Alberni Valley is single-family homes and 43.5 per cent were built before 1960. “Between 2017 and 2020, 143 singlefamily dwellings were built and 235 multi-family units were built so there has been increasing construction,” said project consultant Rebecca Taylor. “But it is interesting to see how many older homes there are that could lead to another area of unaffordability if people can’t afford to do major repairs to older homes.” Between 2010 and 2020, 700 new residential dwelling units were added to the housing stock in Port Alberni. “Some good news… in October 2020 the rental vacancy rate reached three per cent, which is considered to be the low end of a healthy vacancy rate and this has been an increase from 0.7 per cent in 2018,” Taylor said. “The new developments that have been happening, for example on Burde Street, have helped somewhat with the rental vacancy rate.”

Sharie Minions Taylor added that a low rental vacancy rate can lead to pressure in the market which would increase rental costs. “That’s why it’s important to have at least some rentals available at any one time,” she said. “Based on the population projections and household projections, it’s anticipated that at least 194 new dwelling units will be required by 2025, which based on the number of new units being built each year is pretty attainable.” At the Feb. 22 meeting council approved the next phase of development for the former ADSS property that will add 10 four-plexes and six duplexes. Another multi-family building was approved for Swallow Drive.

The Housing Needs Report showed that 41 per cent of renters are in core housing need, which means they are spending more than 30 per cent of their household income before tax on rent and 18 per cent are in extreme core housing need, spending more than 50 per cent of their household income on shelter costs. Taylor said both categories have increased over time, which “is not a great sign.” “In 2016, based on the number of people in core housing need and facing unaffordability, more than 1,000 subsidized or affordable dwelling units were required to accommodate those households,” Taylor said. There are currently nine affordable housing projects in the planning stages in Port Alberni which would include about 380 units in total, some directed specifically to seniors. Mayor Sharie Minions said that despite the number of issues that the report highlights in terms of housing affordability, the development occurring in the city is a positive step towards addressing diverse housing needs. “Port Alberni was in the top 10 for number of housing starts in the province last year,” Minions said. “That’s significant for a community like Port Alberni that traditionally hasn’t really had a lot of development. We are really picking up.”


February 25, 2021—Ha-Shilth-Sa—Page 7

Campers visit Hesquiaht despite pandemic closure Two groups visit remote location, raising concerns that vaccinated elders could be exposed to COVID infection By Denise Titian Ha-Shilth-Sa Reporter Hesquiaht Harbour, BC – Hesquiaht leadership is raising concerns after two groups of campers were spotted in their territory on the Feb. 14. B.C. Family Day weekend, despite widespread public notices that their territory is closed during the pandemic. In June 2020, BC Parks closed its two provincial parks near Hesquiaht communities. “Due to the COVID-19 response, BC Parks has fully closed this protected area including all related services and facilities,” stated the BC Parks website. “This includes all associated access, e.g.; all facilities, campsites, trails, parking lots, beaches, docks and marine buoys.” According to Hesquiaht Elected Chief Joshua Charleson, he received a report from his forest monitor of seeing visitors during a routine patrol. “He was up patrolling near Stewardson logging camp when he noticed three Tofino residents being dropped off at the dock,” Charleson told Ha-Shilth-Sa. The monitor, who happens to be a Hesquiaht hereditary chief, approached the visitors and was told that they live in Tofino. The three visitors had bicycles and were carrying surfboards and dry bags full of camping gear. They left Stewardson Inlet and biked about eight kilometres over a rough logging road to Hesquiaht Point. Charleson said that the road is not maintained and is impassable by vehicles due to washouts and landslides. The forestry patrol noted another boat tied up to the Stewardson dock, but nobody was around. The patrol left the area for a short period of time. When he returned, he witnessed two people boarding the boat and leaving. It is believed they camped somewhere in Hesquiaht territory overnight.

“There were trees cut, branches flattened down, and the fire was still smoldering” ~ Joshua Charleson, Hesquiaht Elected Chief Charleson said the incident was reported to the RCMP Ahousaht detachment. The RCMP responded to Stewardson Inlet, but by the time they got there nobody was around. Charleson said weather conditions were too treacherous to go to Hesquiaht Harbour. On Tuesday, Feb. 16, Charleson’s father Stephen, a resident at Hesquiaht Harbor, went to Hesquiaht Point to investigate after hearing of what happened at Stewardson Inlet. According to Joshua, his father found evidence of recent a campsite. “There were trees cut, branches flattened down, and the fire was still smoldering,” said Charleson. He went on to say that it wasn’t just a little campfire, but that it looked like it had been a big bonfire. To add insult to injury, the campers left some of their trash behind. “This is very clear disrespect with a global pandemic going on and for Hesquiaht nation,” said Charleson. He noted that two families live in Hesquiaht Harbour representing a total of five people –

Photo submitted by Hesquiaht First Nation

A group of visitors who said they lived in Tofino were seen camping near Hesquiaht Harbour on Feb. 14. three of them elders. All five people have received first shots of COVID-19 vaccine and are awaiting second shots. Even though Hesquiaht territories are vast and chances of Hesquiaht members encountering a visitor is low, Charleson remains concerned for his people. “The fear is that it is so remote, if anything was to happen to visitors, the only people to respond would be Hesquiaht residents, potentially exposing them infection,” he said Charleson said Hesquiaht nation is working in partnership with health authorities and provincial parks. They are keeping their territories closed until the pandemic is over and they get the goahead to open from the Provincial Health Officer Bonnie Henry. “We are not willing to risk safety of our people,” said Charleson. Hesquiaht First Nation remains in a state of emergency due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. “Hesquiaht First Nation has communicated to the public through various channels since the start of the pandemic that all of Hesquiaht First Nation’s Hahoolthi (territory) are closed to all non-essential and non- Hesquiaht resident travel,” said Charleson. “[We have] gotten to the point of declining entry to our own members to protect our communities in Hesquiaht Hahoolthi,” stated Charleson. “(We) do not want our nation to suffer because of the actions of individuals that believe the closure does not apply to them.” He asked that all people respect the closure. “Our health and well-being are the top priority for us all,” he said, adding that he hopes that one day soon they can happily reopen their Hesquiaht Hahoolthi to the general public. According to BC Parks, anyone found in a closed park will be evicted and could face a $115 fine. Most day-use areas will re-open to the public on May 14, 2021.

Business issues apology for Family Day trespass By Denise Titian Ha-Shilth-Sa Reporter Tofino, BC – One day after Ha-Shilth-Sa published the story Family Day campers visit Hesquiaht despite pandemic closure, Tofino Resort + Marina issued a letter of apology to the people of Hesquiaht. On Thursday, Feb. 18, Hesquiaht Elected Chief Joshua Charleson contacted Ha-Shilth-Sa after being notified that two groups of campers were spotted at Stewardson Inlet near Hot Springs Cove, despite widely publicized announcements that Hesquiaht territory is closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Chief Charleson notified the RCMP who came to investigate, but by then all the campers had left the area. Hesquiaht has gone on record declaring their territories closed to all but residents and essential workers during the provincial state of emergency, which has been in effect since March 2020. “Hesquiaht First Nation has communicated to the pubic through various channels since the start of the pandemic that all of Hesquiaht First Nations’ Hahoolthi (territory) are closed to all non-essential and non-Hesquiaht resident travel,” said Charleson. He went on to say that if any of these people had gotten hurt or their boat broke down, it would be up to Hesquiaht people to respond to the emergency, potentially exposing themselves to the virus. On Friday, Feb. 19, Charleson received a letter of apology from Christopher Fehr, General Manager of Tofino Resort + Marina. Addressed to Hesquiaht Hereditary Chiefs, Hesquiaht community members, as well as elected Chief and Council, Fehr acknowledges that one of the ves-

sels that came to Stewardson Inlet that day belonged to the resort and marina. “On February 14th, 2021 one of our boats was rented out and used to deliver campers to the docks of the Hesquiaht territory. I truly apologize for the risk that this as brought to you and your families,” he wrote. Fehr accepted responsibility for the boat being where it shouldn’t have been. “It is our boat, and therefore our responsibility to manage their destinations and those choices,” he stated. The resort has taken punitive action with their staff and are working to ensure that incidents like this will not happen again. Charleson is grateful that Fehr stepped up and accepted responsibility. He thanked Fehr for taking ownership and for reaching out to Hesquiaht. But in a new twist, Tofino Resort + Marina received confirmation that one of its food and beverage workers tested positive for COVID-19. The positive test results came a week after the Family Day weekend, so Charleson feels confident that Hesquiaht people are safe. According to Charleson, Island Health told him possible exposure dates at the resort were Feb. 16 and 17. “This is the exact reason we have closed our territories,” said Charleson, adding that the boat came from a place that had a COVID-19 exposure. Charleson says that Hesquiaht has a designated person to check boats that are coming to the community docks. They will take temperatures and information. But with one confirmed case in Tofino, locals are left to wonder who has been in contact with that person and if there are more unknown cases and carriers of COVID-19 nearby.


Page 8— Ha-Shilth-Sa—February 25, 2021

Walking alongside parents to keep families together With a newly-formed prevention team, Usma is working to overcome distrust caused by the foster care system By Eric Plummer Ha-Shilth-Sa Editor Port Alberni, BC - In recent years the number of youngsters being removed from their parents to live in foster care has dramatically declined – but this has not been the trend for Indigenous children. Data compiled by the B.C. Ministry of Children and Youth illustrates the disparity: In 2002 there were 10,049 children in care, including 4,273 Indigenous kids that comprised 43 per cent of the total. By 2019 the number of children in care had dropped to 6,263, with 4,111 Indigenous youngsters – a relatively unchanged Aboriginal total that accounts for 66 per cent of children and youth in the foster system. Alarms have been sounded locally and at a national level. In March 2018 the Huu-ay-aht First Nations declared a public health emergency, when it reported that 47 – or 20 per cent – of its youngsters were in care. In January of that year Jane Philpott, who at the time served as Canada’s minister of Indigenous Services, called an emergency two-day meeting in Ottawa to delve into the overrepresentation of Aboriginal children living in the foster system. Federal recognition of the problem led to the passing of Bill C-92, a law that recognises the jurisdiction of Indigenous governments and First Nations to determine their own child and family services. “It recognizes a simple truth: one size does not fit all when it comes to Indigenous child and family services,” read a statement from Indigenous Services Canada. “Under Bill C-92, Indigenous communities and groups will be free to develop policies and laws based on their particular histories, cultures and circumstances. Free to move at their own pace to implement and enforce these policies and laws.” This had an effect on the national standard of practice, said Kelly Edgar, director of Usma Nuu-chah-nulth Child and Family Services. But since it was established in the 1980s, the Nuu-chahnulth agency has operated under the goal of preventing the removal of children from their parents and communities. While Edgar says that this is sometimes necessary for the safety of the children, Usma is now operating with additional funding from Indigenous Services Canada to support a full team tasked with preventing parents from getting to the point where their children are forcibly removed. The prevention team includes four family wellness staff, two connections workers, a youth outreach person, an elders’ navigator, a cultural coordinator, plus its leader Kevin Titian. “Prevention is rebuilding the aspect of the word Usma, getting back to its true meaning,” said Titian in reference to the Nuu-chah-nulth word. “The word Usma being precious one, being a precious gem of who you are as a human being.” “The prevention team itself is really a way for us to practice outside of the normal child welfare response, which is generally what Usma is being,” added Edgar. “Usma was put in place to be the Nuu-chah-nulth version of MCFD.” Currently 89 Nuu-chah-nulth children and youth are in care, 47 of whom are with extended family or other Nuu-chahnulth members, while two are living independently.

Photo by Eric Plummer

Kevin Titian, who leads Usma Nuu-chah-nulth Family and Child Services’ new prevention team, stands with Director Kelly Edgar by their head office in Port Alberni. The team is looking forward connecting with more Nuu-chah-nulth families when pandemic restrictions eventually ease.

“Prevention is rebuilding the aspect of the word Usma, getting back to its true meaning” ~ Kevin Titian, Prevention Team Lead “That number, believe it or not, had decreased and is continuing to decrease,” said Edgar, noting that children are no longer separated from their families due to poverty – a practice that some still associate with the Ministry of Children and Family Development. “When we are presented with a family who might be experiencing homelessness or poverty situations, it’s always the goal to connect them to the resources and not to be doing that punitive kind of work.” Support for youth continues after they have aged out of care, up until the age of 27. This change in foster system support occurred over the last few years. Edgar said the needs for youth who have aged out of care have attracted more attention during the COVID-19 pandemic’s restrictions. “I think it’s becoming more talked about more since the pandemic, actually, because there’s this crisis,” she said. Overcoming distrust in the communities it serves continues to be a challenge for Usma, highlighted by a recent multi-day protest outside the agency’s Port Alberni

offices in January. While she respects the rights of parents to express their opinions of Usma’s child protection measures, the agency is legally obligated to follow privacy laws regarding kids in care. “Everybody has a right to protest what they feel is important to them,” explained Edgar. “It’s not our place to engage with that, because it would not be appropriate.” But what they can do is develop relationships with Nuu-chah-nulth families in need of help, something that Titian and his prevention team are eager to explore once COVID-19 measures loosen to allow more personal contact. “I’m not a social worker coming into your community to take away your children,” he said. “I’m here to walk alongside.” A critical part of the 50-person department’s work are its ties to family care workers who live in or near Nuu-chahnulth communities along Vancouver Island’s west coast. These workers are employed by the local First Nations, not the NTC, to act as liaisons on child welfare issues. They develop close ties with families, an important asset in responding when a child’s safety is at risk. “Our first call is generally to that family care worker to say, ‘Here’s the situation, this is what’s going on, can you provide safety through family connections for this child until we can come up and assess?’,” said Edgar, noting that this immediate connection to a child’s extended family is a different response than a social worker showing up on someone’s doorstep. Beyond ensuring the immediate safety

of a child, the prevention team’s goal is to help foster an environment of healing for the parents, attending to issues such as addictions, anger management or the effects of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. Titian has seen trauma stretch back multiple generations to the institutionalized harm of the residential school system. “A lot of that leads to misuse of alcohol and drugs,” he reflected. “Instead of them being powerless to alcohol and drugs, really they’re powerless to what their grandparents have endured and what their great-grandparents have endured with generational trauma. They become powerless to that without realising that they’re in a state of continuation of the chain of events.” To break this cycle, Usma offers women’s and men’s groups for parents, while a parenting program incorporates traditional Nuu-chah-nulth teachings. The intent is to foster a deeper sense of belonging that some parents never knew. “A lot of our clients that we work with, their identity of who they are is very limited,” said Titian. “To really implement the aspect of culture, the aspect of connection to mother earth, the aspect of connection to creator and ancestors - a lot of our families in our communities that we have connected with, they’ve had that loss of connection. So by bringing that back to them, it’s implementing change and awareness for them.” “When you empower our community and our people with identity, it plants a seed within them to want more,” he added.


February 25, 2021—Ha-Shilth-Sa—Page 9

Photos by Melissa Renwick

Chris Seitcher, Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation cultural support worker, cleanses himself with sage inside his home in Ty-Histanis in February.

Building a foundation by le•ing go of the past Tla-o-qui-aht plans for a drop-in program where men can grow through ceremony and cultural learning By Melissa Renwick Local Journalism Initiative Reporter Ty-Histanis, BC - For the majority of Steve Howard’s life, he lived by the phrase, “real men don’t cry.” “Back in my day we were always taught not to cry,” he said. “We were always taught not to feel. So, we grew up kind of tough. Whatever we held in, we kept in.” It’s a mindset that the Tla-o-qui-aht man is trying to shift by encouraging his four sons to openly share their feelings. And yet, his past traumas of physical, mental and sexual abuse continue to hold him back. “We all have troubles and we all have flaws,” he said. “We don’t share our stories. Sexual abuse is a really big thing that happened to First Nations people – not just in Tla-o-qui-aht, but all over Canada and the United States. We as men don’t express that feeling of being raped, not just by a priest but by [our] own family members.” Noticing a gap in men’s support, Howard, Chris Seitcher, Dwayne Martin, Craig Devine and William Goodbird formed a men’s group and started hosting informal men’s circles in Ty-Histanis in the Fall of 2017. While they noticed options for women, youth and elders, there wasn’t a place for men to come together. For Howard, the men’s circle provided him a safe space to share his story without fear of judgement. In turn, he encouraged the men around him to “feel strong enough to express who they are.” “Everybody’s story helped my journey,” he said. “It’s the growth of knowing that I’m not alone in this world.” In those early stages, the men’s group struggled to host regular circles because they didn’t have a consistent space to gather in. The setback meant attendance was scarce and yet its impact started to pulse throughout the nation.

“One of the key things that we noticed was it started a conversation in and around the community,” said Devine. “These men would [return] home from our men’s gathering and be totally high as a kite on the good vibe of everything. They brought that energy back home

“If we are able to truly work on ourselves and truly heal, we are able to be in the moment” ~ Chris Seitcher, Cultural Support Worker with them and their wives noticed it and their kids noticed it. We started really wanting to build on that.” Eventually, the group of volunteers secured a space within the nation’s health centre and three to 18 men started regularly attending. Through sweats, brushings, singing, drumming and talking circles, the group aimed to integrate a more ancestral approach to dealing with trauma. “We communicate our emotions in a different way, or the way that we were taught,” said Seitcher, Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation cultural support worker. “Sometimes expressing them will come out through yelling, swearing or causing harm to another person.” While there is no excuse for that behaviour, Seitcher said the men’s group is trying to shift those forms of expression through connection and ceremony. “If we are able to truly work on ourselves and truly heal, we are able to be in the moment,” he said. “We are able to live for today. We’re able to see and be

connected with the people that we meet and talk to – with our families and loved ones. We won’t sit with the things that were done in the past. We won’t sit with the hurts that have happened in the past. It will come up – those hurts and those pains – but we have to allow it to flow through our bodies so that we can let it go.” As momentum started to build, the First Nations Health Authority stepped in last year and provided a significant amount of funding for the group. Despite being unable to gather due to COVID-19 restrictions, Seitcher, Devine and Naomi Seitcher, Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation community services manager, have been working to formalize the group, which has been named, ƛ̓iik̓pitap taqumł. Levi Martin offered the name, which means “to build a solid foundation for the community.” “It always makes me feel good when people are wanting to do something to make changes in themselves, in their families and communities,” he said. They landed on the name because the

structure of a house cannot stand without the foundation, said Seitcher. “Each one of us in the community can be that foundation,” he said. “If one person heals, the hope is that the next person heals too. If we heal as a community, the next generation will be that much better off.” By letting go of the past, Seitcher said the community will be able to “move forward in a good way.” Looking ahead, ƛ̓iik̓pitap taqumł plans to provide a drop-in program in a consistent space where Tla-o-qui-aht men can grow through ceremony, health programming and cultural learning. By supporting men in their healing journey through connection, Howard said the men’s group is a tool “to speak your mind.” “A lot of us are too scared to speak,” he said. “But once you learn how to speak, then you learn how to stand. And once you learn how to stand, you learn how to walk. It’s learning how to move forward again.”


Page 10— Ha-Shilth-Sa—February 25, 2021

NCN cultural centre proposed for Alberni Valley With an estimated cost of up to $25 million, the multi-floor facility would be in a vacant lot near the waterfront By Karly Blats Ha-Shilth-Sa Contributor Port Alberni, BC - Members of Port Alberni city council are in support of a proposed Nuu-chah-nulth Cultural and Interpretive Centre for the Alberni Valley. Mary Mason and Joel Marriott of Owls Path Foundation, Denise Young of Tigers Eye Advisory Group and Scott Jeary with the First Nations Education Foundation presented the plan to city council at a regular meeting on Feb. 22 seeking support. The proposed multi-level facility would include space to showcase Nuu-chahnulth artifacts, local artists, retail space and cultural events. The centre could also be used to host meetings, workshops and celebrations. “Each floor will have something different to offer. The bottom two levels of the building would be for undercover parking…the next floor up would be a public market that would have a fish selling opportunity in it for local fishermen with merchant retail spaces as well,” Mason told council. “Another floor would have office spaces and a board room for rental options. The second highest level would be a cultural interpretive museum, and that would be a place to showcase Tseshsaht and guest nations’ art, culture and history.” Mason said the top floor of the building would be used for conventions and have the capacity to hold approximately 1,000 people. The group’s ideal location for the cultural centre would be in a vacant parking lot adjacent to Jack’s Tire on Kingsway Avenue, but they’re also looking at other spaces. The group has received support from the Tseshaht First Nation and are still waiting to hear back from the Hupacasath First Nation. With no permanent hub in the Alberni Valley to showcase history and culture of the 14 Nuu-chah-nulth nations, the group says the proposed centre would provide valuable and authentic information to visitors about the history, government and cultural practices of Indigenous people. The estimated cost of the project is $20-

Photo by Eric Plummer

An unused parking lot near Port Alberni’s Harbour Quay is being considered for a proposed multi-level, multi-purpose Nuu-chah-nulth cultural centre. Mary Mason and Joel Marriot recently presented the idea to Port Alberni city council. $25 million. The group recommended that each of the 14 nations buy into a co-operative using a percentage of their gaming revenue to ensure the day-to-day operating costs of the centre are covered, which would give them access to use the centre’s rental facilities. Other revenue streams would include visitor fees, gift shop revenue and venue rental fees. Moving forward, the group would be looking to fund the project through grant opportunities, membership buy-ins, donations, fundraisers and sponsorships. Mayor Sharie Minions said the cultural centre is a “beautiful concept” and that she’s thrilled someone is working on it. She said the city will look into appointing either a member of council or city staff to an advisory committee to continue working closely with the group as plans progress. Minions said her main concern was that the group hadn’t yet received support from the Hupacasath First Nation. “It sounds like you’re working closely with Tseshaht which is fantastic, but for projects within the city and the traditional and uncededed lands of Tseshaht and Hupacasath, we like to see really strong engagement and support from both na-

tions, not just one,” Minons said. “Also the preferred piece of land (next to Jack’s Tire) the city doesn’t own. So we can’t

help give land that isn’t ours, but overall I think this is a fantastic concept you’ve come up with.”

Phrase of the week: c^umq+a+uknis^ %aa%iic^um %uu%iip +’a+’aac’aapa> Pronounced jim k shoot ug nish ah ee jim ooh eep tla tla saa plath, it means ‘my Elders were so happy to get some ducks’. Supplied by ciisma.

Illustration by Ivy Cargill-Martin


February 25, 2021—Ha-Shilth-Sa—Page 11

Ka:’yu:’k’t’h’/Che:k’tles7et’h’ to join regional district April brings the Maa-nulth milestone for self-determination by taking a seat with north island municipalities By Mike Youds Ha-Shilth-Sa Contributor Campbell River, BC - Ten years after the Maa-nulth Treaty took effect, Ka:’yu:’k’t’h’/Che:k’tles7et’h’ First Nations (KCFN) are ready to take a seat with regional government. KCFN becomes a full voting member of the Strathcona Regional District board April 1 in keeping with a treaty commitment made by the five Maa-nulth signatory nations, four of which already occupy seats on the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District executive. Kevin Jules, KCFN’s legislative vicechief, will join the SRD board as a full voting member for the first time on April 14. He is no stranger to the board, having attended meetings as a non-associate member with observer status for the past couple of years. “With us joining, it opens up a lot of doors,” Jules said. On the stroke of midnight on April 1, 2011, the five Maa-nulth nations had good reason to celebrate. Maa-nulth became the first treaty signed on Vancouver Island under the B.C. treaty process and the first such agreement involving multiple nations in the province. Two years later, the five treaty nations attained lawmaking authority, a giant step forward on the long journey to self-government. “Will it be treaty or 100 per cent of nothing,” Lead treaty negotiator George Watts asked, summing up historic injustices that compelled Maa-nulth nations to blaze the treaty path. Uchucklesaht Chief Councillor Charlie Cootes Sr., who served as president of the Maa-nulth Treaty Society at the time, described it as a “long, bumpy journey” getting to that point. “From the first Europeans that came to this country, we have been negotiating, trying to negotiate our place in the mainstream of this country,” Cootes told Ha-Shilth-Sa in 2013. “We are now accountable to our people, not to Ottawa.” Slowly but surely, opportunities flowed from that watershed date. The settlement brought capital transfers totalling $73 million, 24,500 hectares of land, resource revenues plus funds for treaty implementation, programs and services. The treaty set a 10-year time frame for signatories to join their respective regional districts. Huu-ay-aht and Ucluelet joined ACRD in 2012, Uchucklesaht joined in 2014 and Toquaht took its place at the regional government table five years ago. KCFN opted for the full term. “We took the full 10 years to see what

Submitted photo

John Jack, Huu-ay-aht councillor and ACRD chair, was guest speaker at a recent meeting between Strathcona Regional District and Ka:’yu:’k’t’h’/Che:k’tles7et’h’ representatives.

“Will it be treaty or 100 per cent of nothing,” ~ George Watts, Lead Treaty Negotiator kind of approach should be taken,” Jules said. “As we came up to that date, we started collaborating with SRD on how that would work. The process is one of mutual respect and learning. We’ve been meeting live weekly in planning for that date and keeping in contact with regional district members to keep communications open. They see how we work as a government and we see how their structure works.” John Jack, who joined the ACRD board nine years ago as a Huu-ay-aht councillor, described the process of joining regional government as fundamental to self-determination. “It’s linked pretty directly to our experience with treaty and the reasons we entered into treaty,” said Jack, who has chaired the ACRD board for the last five years. “We found it important to control our own destiny, to make decisions on

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land and laws.” A key component of First Nations selfgovernment is managing relationships with other governments, Jack explained: “Before we got into treaty, [there] really wasn’t a formal relationship with other local governments in any appreciable way.” Prior to the treaty there was a transparent wall between First Nations and neighbouring communities with no formal relationship between them. The federal Indian Act usurped traditional ways of life. Any interactions between First Nations fell under the purview of the Crown, the federal government. Local government was left out of the conversation, seen as weakness in B.C.’s relationship building. Communities were held back. Along the “path forward” (t’asii in Nuu-chah-nulth), KCFN and the SRD have drawn from experiences of other Maa-nulth nations, developing fact and orientation guides. Jack was guest speaker during a recent SRD meeting on Zoom, explaining the process to KCFN representatives. Mutual understanding is key to what Jack describes as an integration of First Nation and regional district governments on executive and administrative levels. Change has been gradual, but integration has fundamentally altered the conversation in direct and indirect ways. “It used to be that Port Alberni, largest city in the regional district, could carry the day without having to consider concerns of west coast or smaller Alberni Valley communities. Now it must engage with more than one of two of its allies in vote,” he said. “That has changed the nature of the conversations. Rather than being a City of Port Alberni show, it is now something much more collegial and involves everyone at the table.” A seat at the table led to new connections through related organizations such as UBCM and chambers of commerce.

“Being a part of a regional district ended up opening a lot of doors, not only political and social doors but economic ones,” Jack said. “There are political leverages you can use that don’t really cost anything.” He expects the process for Ka:’yu:’k’t’h’/Che:k’tles7et’h’ First Nation it will be somewhat different as the first to join Strathcona Regional District, “but the potential for creating new relationships and new opportunities is still there.” The only negative aspect for integration is the amount of time required, he told KCFN reps. Designates have to be prepared to fully commit and engage. His advice to others starting the same path? “Learn as much as you can about how regional districts work and be prepared to teach those folks how you plan to go about governing yourself,” Jack said. “That will lessen concerns about compatibility.” SRD meetings continue to be held on Zoom due to pandemic safety measures, but Jules said technology is helping with the process. “I’m just thrilled and look forward to becoming a member and excited to see the other board members are very accepting,” Jules said. Wilfred Cootes, the Uchucklesaht Tribe’s councillor responsible for land and resources, has served on the ACRD board from the start seven years ago. He had only good things to say about joining regional government. “The experience has been really positive both for me and my government,” Cootes said. “It’s nice to have a voice in the decisions of the district. It’s invaluable,” he added. His advice? “I’d say, don’t be afraid to have your voice heard because every voice at the table matters. It’s good to have your nation’s needs heard; it’s a needed perspective.”

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Page 12— Ha-Shilth-Sa—February 25, 2021

No answers seven months after unexplained death Williams died in a shelter the day after being released from hospital, where he was treated for pancreatitis By Denise Titian Ha-Shilth-Sa Reporter Duncan, BC – It has been seven months since James Williams, 52, was found deceased in his unit at a Duncan shelter and the family is still waiting for answers about how their loved one died. James Williams was a Tla-o-qui-aht father of five. His mother was a member of Yucluthaht First Nation, so he had many close relatives there, including his cousin Jennifer Touchie. What the family knows is that Williams had been in the hospital receiving treatment for pancreatitis. Jennifer Touchie told Ha-Shilth-Sa that he had been picked up from the streets of Duncan on July 15, 2020, the afternoon he was released from the hospital. According to a police statement, Williams was picked up about 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, July 15 for public intoxication. He was released from cells nine hours later at 1:30 a.m. on Thursday, July 16. At some point afterward, he went to his unit at Warmland House in the city of Duncan. Later that afternoon he was found deceased in his unit. The investigation into Williams’ death was handed over to the BC Coroner’s Service and the Independent Investigations Office, a civilian oversight agency that looks into police-related incidents that result in serious harm or death. According to Touchie, who has been in frequent contact with the agencies investigating the death, the IIO has completed their investigation but cannot move forward with a report until the BC Coroner’s services completes its investigation. And the coroner cannot release its report until it receives the toxicology report. “We can’t speed up the process – it a waiting game,” said Touchie, adding that the wait is adding to the heartbreak and frustration that the family suffers. Something needs to be done to speed up the process, she said. NTC Vice President Mariah Charleson is the family spokesperson and has advocated on their behalf, speaking to the various officials. “I have been in contact with the family as well as the IIO investigators, IIO family liaison, as well as had a meeting with the Chief Civilian Director of the Independent Investigations Office (IIO) Ron MacDonald,” she stated in an email to Ha-Shilth-Sa. “There’s been no progress.” They need to know how and why their father died, she continued, adding that this process is similar to the one Chantel Moore’s family is going through in New Brunswick. On June 4, 2020, Moore, age 26, was shot and killed in her Edmundston, NB apartment during a wellness check by an Edmundston Police Force officer. Her family has been waiting eight agonizing months for investigators to complete their reports and find out whether charges will be laid against the police officer. At a summer rally to raise awareness over these two cases, NTC President Judith Sayers and Charleson spoke to federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh and MP Gord Johns. “We spoke to them about having an Indigenous oversight body that would get involved as soon as an IIO investigation is launched involving Indigenous people,” Charleson said. She said the proposed body would ensure that investigations are done in a culturally sensitive manner and would

Photo submitted by Jennifer Touchie

Jennifer Touchie, front, stands with supporters at the Tofino/Ucluelet junction last summer during a joint rally for Williams (pictured below) and Chantel Moore, who happened to be related to one another. be in constant communication with both investigators and families. “When there’s no answers imaginations run wild,” said Charleson. NTC leadership, she said, is pushing for this so that any time an Indigenous person is injured or killed at the hands of police officers, someone will be there to look after the interests of the victim and their families. Charleson said that investigators informed the family that they should have answers by September 2020, but they are still waiting and feel forgotten about. The BC Coroner’s Service said in an email to Ha-Shilth-Sa that the investigation is not complete and there is no information to share. The IIO issued an information bulletin on their website outlining the RCMP’s interaction with Williams on the day he died. “The IIO will investigate to determine what role, if any, the officers’ actions or too many times we didn’t have it in us to she said. “His poor children and grandinaction may have played in the death of fight for those answers.” children. We need to be his voice.” the man,” stated the bulletin. “The BC “We will accept whatever they say, we The IIO can file a report to Crown Coroners Service is also conducting an just need to know what happened,” said counsel to consider charges. If a report is independent investigation to determine not referred to Crown, the IIO produces a Touchie. how, where, when and by what means he She went on to say that something needs pubic document explaining their findings. came to his death.” to change. Maybe it’s a lack of coroners. “We cannot sit silent on this matter and Touchie says the family knows Williams must be provided the answers the family Keeping families waiting is heartbreaking was being treated for pancreatitis. In adand frustrating, she said. needs and have requested at in-person dition, she said the coroner let it slip that “I really believe we need to have that meetings with the IIO investigators,” said Williams died of a head injury. oversight body of workers to advocate on Charleson, vowing to continue the fight “I don’t know if he was supposed to tell on behalf of the people. “Far too many our behalf because we’re always on the us, but we know and we need answers,” backburner,” said Touchie. of us know of stories like this…and far


February 25, 2021—Ha-Shilth-Sa—Page 13

------- Employment Opportunities ------Tla-o-qui-aht First Nations Job Opportuntiy Home & Community Care Worker Position Summary:

Provide home care support to the Nation’s members who require additional help to maintain a healthy standard of living given their medical state, on an on-call basis. This posting is on-going Submit your resume and cover letter to: jobs@tla-o-qui-aht.org or Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation P.O. Box 18 Tofino BC, V0R 2Z0

View more job postings at: www.hashilthsa.com


Page 14— Ha-Shilth-Sa—February 25, 2021

Net barriers planned for Zeballos for mountain slides Eha•esaht First Nation officials expected to give green light this week to provincially funded Zeballos projects By Sam Laskaris Ha-Shilth-Sa Contributor Zeballos, BC – The small Vancouver Island village of Zeballos will be receiving $750,000 of provincial funding for some much-needed work in its community. Zeballos is located within the traditional territories of the Ehattesaht First Nation. The money Zeballos is getting is part of the province’s latest announcement of $8.5 million in provincial emergency preparedness funding. Zeballos, which has a population of 107, is a village prone to various geohazards, including flooding and slope hazards on its mountain which result in rockslides, rockfall and debris flow. “This is a very exciting project for us,” Meredith Starkey, the chief administrative officer for Zeballos said of work that can be accomplished now with provincial funds. Proposed work includes the installation of three flexible net barriers, which would reduce rockfall and debris flow from the village’s mountain. Portions of the provincial funding will also be utilized to modify a small creek, which tends to flood and has caused property damage in the village. Starkey, who said her village relies on grant funding for virtually all work undertaken in Zeballos, said the latest provincial money is for a continuation of previous projects carried out. “I’m sure the province was aware we would be putting in this application,” she said. Zeballos had received $150,000 in provincial funding in 2018 to update its floodplain map, including a landslide risk assessment of the mountain located in the village’s east end. That assessment included a report of the hazard after a wildfire tore through Zeballos that year. The village was then awarded an additional $150,000 last year to prepare a slope hazard mitigation feasibility study. And now, the latest funding is to do the mitigation work which was recommended in the 2020 feasibility study. Starkey said Zeballos has a two-year window to complete the work described in its latest funding. She is hesitant to pinpoint a possible date of when work

Photo by Jayme Anderson

An aerial view of the village of Zeballos, which has received $750,000 for projects in its community. might commence. “I don’t think I want to speculate on a date since we haven’t started the consultation process,” she said. Since the village is located on Ehattesaht land, officials from the Nuu-chahnulth First Nation need to give their blessing before any work commences. The issue is expected to be raised on Wednesday when the Ehattesaht council has its next meeting. Ehatteshat Chief Simon John said he was not aware of all the details of the work that would be done with the justacquired funding. “We’re pretty joined at the hip,” he said of the relationship maintained between his First Nation and Zeballos. “I don’t foresee a problem.” Starkey is also anticipating favourable support from the First Nation. “We’re a remote community and we work together on all sorts of projects,” she said. “We’ve discussed we are doing

this work and seeking their support. I think it’s in all of our best interests to do it.” John said Ehatteshat and Zeballos are currently working together on a project updating its sewer system. John also said he has a personal reason why he would want to see Zeballos proceed with a project to mitigate a landslide in its community. “Considering my house is right under the slide, I think I’d rather be safe,” he said. Since September of 2017 the province has awarded more than $60 million through its Community Emergency Preparedness Fund to various recipients across British Columbia. Zeballos was not the only Vancouver Island community to receive some money in the province’s latest announcement, made earlier this month. The K’omoks First Nation is getting $472,000. Funds will go towards a proj-

ect to protect against erosion which is affecting the community. Michele Babchuk, the MLA for North Island, is also supportive of the grant. “One of the things that locals love most about Zeballos is its spectacular natural surroundings, but those surroundings come with natural hazards,” she said. “Smart investments like these will help reduce the risks from things like slides and flooding to people in town.” The mitigation work will be primarily focused on the north side of the village’s mountain, near the bridge in the community which spans the Zeballos River. Once work commences it is expected to take 14 months to finish the entire projects. Zeballos officials believe it could also take up to eight months in order to obtain all the various permits and regulatory approvals required, to abide by the Fisheries Act and the Water Sustainability Act.

Eha!esaht awarded grant for central gathering space By Eric Plummer Ha-Shilth-Sa Editor Ehatis, BC - Ehatis is looking beyond the days of a strict pandemic lockdown with plans to build a central gathering place in the village next to Zeballos. The Ehattesaht Chinehkint First Nation’s on-reserve community was hard hit by COVID-19 in recent months, with 28 confirmed infections out of Ehatis’s 102 residents. But work is underway to develop a site where people can connect once again, with a $304,500 grant awarded to the First Nation by the First People’s Cultural Council, a provincially owned Crown corporation that serves to revitalize Aboriginal culture and heritage in British Columbia. With recently announced funding extending over three years, the nation can now proceed with its plans for nawaayisin – or Wisdom Bench – an “outdoor gathering space for transmission of traditional knowledge,” according to the project description. Initial plans are for the space to be built on an empty lot

at the bottom of a hill in Ehatis where a house formally stood. The successful grant proposal describes a longhousestyle gazebo, a retaining wall painted with artwork and seating. “We’ll be able to use that as a marshalling area for a post-COVID environment where we can gather and really work with our young people and reorient them,” said Victoria Wells, an Ehattesaht member who has led the project’s proposal. “The product and how it gets fully shaped is still subject to community input.” The gathering space would be near a playground that is currently being built, and the project includes a safer pathway for children to travel from the site to the other side of the village. “We have children that walk along an active logging road just to get from one section of the village to the other,” said Wells. “Just by the grace of God we haven’t had anybody injured. There have been a few close calls. Sometimes the kids actually ride their bikes from the top of the village down to the bottom and they can’t see any oncoming traffic.”

By the nawaayisin site are two dugout canoes growing back into the ground, and the project describes informative plaques that would link people to this part of Ehattesaht heritage. The wisdom bench concept draws on stories from elder Tom Curley about a gathering place at Queens Cove, which existed as a village long before the current settlement of Ehatis was re-established 28 years ago. “At one time they would put a stick in the sand and they would talk until a certain time that the shadow would move to a different point on the sand,” said Wells. “It was a natural place where there was long discussion about the current state of affairs in community and what would be coming.” The location at the head of the wharf on the Zeballos Inlet was also a popular spot for casual socializing. “In Queen’s Cove it was called Bull***t Alley. People would hang out on Bull***t Alley and just talk,” said Wells. “At the head of the wharf, you see this in other villages and communities, it’s a natural gathering spot.”

Victoria Wells Ehattesaht’s project is one of 11 selected by the First People’s Cultural Council out of 104 applications. Another $400,000 grant was awarded to the Yuułuʔiłʔatḥ First Nation for a facility to house artifacts at its cultural centre. These are part of a larger $100-million initiative from the provincial government to support economic and social recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.


February 25, 2021—Ha-Shilth-Sa—Page 15

Photo by Melissa Renwick

Ryan Sabbas (centre) and Joshua Watts (right) help Joe Martin carve a canoe for Valeen Jules within Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation traditional territory off of the Pacific Rim Highway, on Feb. 16, 2021.

Carving a traditional dugout canoe in the forest Young carvers form a chaputs from a fallen red cedar tree under the guidance of a master Tla-o-qui-aht artisan By Melissa Renwick Local Journalism Initiative Reporter Tofino, BC - When Valeen Jules performed spoken word poetry at the Koksilah Music Festival last year, the 24-year-old played ancestral Nuu-chahnulth music in the background. As the familiar melodies danced through Joe Martin’s ears, the master carver was lured to the stage and introduced himself to the young poet. Like kindred spirits, they bonded immediately and Martin has been mentoring Jules as a wood carver ever since. From paddles to bentwood boxes, the exposure led Jules to dream of carving a traditional dugout canoe that would allow family members to travel along the coast. After securing grant funding from the Canada Council for the Arts and First Peoples’ Cultural Council, that dream is becoming a reality. Jules decided to name the canoe, ʔaƛac̓u, which means two-spirit in Nuu

chah-nulth. It is a nod to the youth’s queer identity. “Our queer ancestors were powerful and had roles in whaling, in carving [and] in harvesting,” said Jules. Rallying Ryan Sabbas and Joshua Watts to help, Martin is guiding the project forward. “I had Ryan in mind since the beginning,” said Jules. “When I first started carving just over a year ago, I invited two or three peers to come learn as well. Ryan was the only one who showed up and was as equally excited to learn.” Nestled in the forest off the Pacific Rim Highway, the team of carvers shaped the canoe, or chaputs, from a fallen red cedar tree. In between chipping away at the hull of the canoe with a hunched spine, Sabbas let out a grown while gripping his lower back. “The ancestors are mocking me,” he laughed, poking fun at his own fragility. “It is really hard work.”

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Sabbas normally operates a water taxi in-and-out of his home in Hot Springs Cove. When he got the call from Jules to help with the project, he dropped everything for the opportunity to learn a tradition his own grandfather used to practice. In his absence Sabbas’ father stepped in and said, “learn as much as you can, I’ll run the boat.” While he misses being on the water, Sabbas said he enjoys carving canoes more. “It’s really fulfilling,” he said. “It makes me feel really good.” Encumbered by the distractions of digital technology, Sabbas said younger generations have become “lazier.” “If a lot of our younger guys saw how rewarding it was, it would get them out more,” he said. “It’s hard to be distracted out here. I mean, look how far we’ve gotten in just a few hours – [the canoe] is already hollowing out.” Watts joined the project with more experience, having previously worked on

eight canoes - one of which he carved on his own. He described the work as an “honour.” “It’s really fulfilling knowing that our ancestors would be proud,” he said. While he still considers himself a learner, Watts dreams of becoming a master. “I’ll get there one day,” he said. Having never carved a canoe in a forest, Watts said that Martin is teaching them how to use the environment to assist with the process. From learning the traditional measurements of the stern and the bow in proportion to the hull, along with the use of depth plugs, Martin’s teachings have been “endless,” he said. “The canoe is like a school,” said Watts. “It’s a link to our language and culture.” Looking ahead, Jules, Sabbas and Watts all plan to continue carrying their ancestors’ knowledge forward by continuing to carve dugout canoes. “I expect to see some more canoes on the water after this,” said Martin.

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Page 16— Ha-Shilth-Sa—February 25, 2021


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