In recent days, the Pacheedaht First Nation has been the focus of an unfair and unwarranted attack by Zoe Blunt of the Forest Action Network. Those attacks culminated in a press release sent out by Ms. Blunt on Aug. 24.
Pacheedaht Chief Marvin McClurg reacted to Blunt's press release stating: "It would be helpful if Ms. Blunt focused on the facts. We are tired of outsiders stirring up trouble in our First Nation to further their own agenda. First Nations have had outsiders try to impose their beliefs and have tried to convert us to these beliefs for hundreds of years and look at the historical damage they have done.
In recent years we have made great strides to improve our situation. We have got 72 per cent of our members off Social Assistance. We have purchased a Tree Farm License through a joint venture and we are currently building a new health centre. We also continue to work with third parties to try to build our economy through employment and training opportunities."
In her press release, Blunt stated that she shares a common goal with elders, traditionalists and hereditary chiefs, protecting the land for future generations. Pacheedaht elected Councillor Tracy Charlie expressed some concern with that statement.
"What 'common goal' is Ms. Blunt referring to? Our elected officials fully understand that we have aboriginal rights and title to our lands. We are the stewards of the land and have been since time immemorial. But we must balance land protection with economic development. We have met with Ender IIkay several times to ensure that his Marine Trail Development meets these objectives. I find it extremely insulting that Ms. Blunt wants to tell us what is best for our members. The only way we can ensure our future is to take control of our own destiny. Unlike Ms. Blunt, we, as leaders, have to focus on making sure our members have a decent future and that inevitably means that some development will be necessary so we can put our people to work."
Chief McClurg pointed out that, contrary to what is contained in Ms. Blunt's press release, Pacheedaht members are regularly consulted about Band business through Band Meetings.
"While it makes for a good story to say that members are being denied input about critical issues facing our First Nation, such as the Marine Trail Development being proposed by Ender Ilkay, it is simply not true."
The Chief pointed out that there was a Community Meeting held on March 30, 2011 where Mr. IIkay was invited to talk to the members about the development. McClurg further pointed out that certain Pacheedaht members cited in Blunt's press release were actually at the March 30, 2011 Community Meeting, as evidenced by minutes taken at that meeting.
"[I]t is unfair and untrue to paint the impression that we do not consult with our members."
Dorothy Hunt, Pacheedaht Band Manager, took issue with Blunt as well.
"She does not seem to understand that the Pacheedaht First Nation is self-governing and that we operate in an open and democratic fashion."
Hunt went on to point out that there are regular meetings where Band business is discussed, that elections are held every two years, and that Blunt's press release seeks to leave the strong impression that the Pacheedaht leadership does not take into account the concerns of their members.
"In any democracy there are dissenting positions and members are free to state their concerns and objections. I find it troubling that Ms. Blunt does not appear to be interested in finding out what is really happening," said Hunt.
Recently, Blunt had stated in an email to Hunt that she has said several times that she is more than willing to meet with chief and council, but Hunt said "this assertion is incorrect. In fact, we even invited her to meet with chief and council to hear our point of view on one occasion and the day before the meeting was going to be held, she declined to attend."