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Public deserves to be informed on forest talks between North Cowichan and First Nations

It has now been well over 1.5 years since North Cowichan signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with “Cowichan Nation” on August 17, 2021, regarding the Municipal Forest Reserve.

During this time, the citizens of North Cowichan have participated in a two-phase public consultation process, which ended with a final report to council in March 2023 from Lees & Associates.

Both phases of the public consultation process clearly showed public support for conservation values over status-quo logging.

To date, however, the public has received no information on the closed, parallel discussions with Cowichan Nation — specifically, the Working Group created by the MOU and consisting of municipal and First Nations representatives.

(Cowichan Nation consists of Cowichan Tribes, Halalt First Nation, Stz’uminus First Nation, Penelakut Tribe and Lyackson First Nation.)

The MOU provides for the Working Group to be kept up-to-date on the public consultation process. As such, it is only fair that the public stay reasonably informed on discussions between North Cowichan and Cowichan Nation.

This update should at least answer the following questions:

— How many meetings of the Working Group have been held to date? When is the next meeting scheduled? How long is this discussion process expected to continue?

— Who are the municipal members of the Working Group and were they appointed by council or the CAO?

— Has the municipality hired any consultants to help with these discussions, and, if so, who are they?

— What topics have generally been discussed by the Working Group?

— The MOU stipulates that the costs of these discussions will be covered by North Cowichan. As such, how much has North Cowichan spent to date?

— The MOU states that the Working Group will prepare a summary report of its meetings at least four times a year. Have these summary reports been prepared as required, and will you now release them to the public?

— Will the public have an opportunity to provide input into the results of these discussions prior to any council decision?

The time for a meaningful update on these discussions is long overdue. All citizens of our community deserve transparency.

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— Larry Pynn, April 14, 2023


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