PORT HARDY—With paddlers from all corners passing through last week on their way to this year’s Tribal Journeys gathering in Bella Bella, Port Hardy’s councillors praised the event organizers during their regular meeting last week.
“It was really wonderful,” Deputy Mayor Deb Huddlestan said during the July 8 session. “I went out to Fort Rupert and was honoured to be asked to give a welcome from the District of Port Hardy to the paddlers.”
“It was a great celebration,” agreed coun. Jessie Hemphill. “Some (paddlers) are over in Tsulquate tonight, some stayed behind in Fort Rupert and tomorrow (Wednesday, June 9) they’re heading up to the Gwa’sala homelands in Smith Inlet and they’re spending the night in Takush, where Gwa’sala-’Nakwada’xw, we’ve just built a dock up there, so that will be the first time to host visitors in Takush Inlet probably since the ‘60s or ‘50s.”
The Deputy Mayor told councillors that an estimated 100 canoes bearing 1,000 paddlers — along with 5,000 support and land crew members — would be gathering at Bella Bella for the Qatuwas festival.
“It’s an amazing organizational feat just to arrange accommodation, transportation and meals for, you know, 6,000 people,” she remarked. “I read some interesting things on their website about it; it’s a wonderful opportunity for youth to connect with the ocean; you know, connect with their culture. I could hear singing from Cluxewe yesterday, it was just beautiful.”
A request from charter operators for designated moorage at Fisherman’s Wharf was declined by councillors, at least for this season.
The regular Operational Services Committee report included the request and a recommendation that it be denied “to allow more time for discussion and to schedule any operational changes needed.”
While the proposal did offer the potential of increased revenue, council felt that there were some logistic hurdles that warranted further consideration.
“These folks were a group of five that were looking for reserved mooring, if you will,” explained coun. Rick Marcotte. “We felt that we have to look further into it because there’s many other charter boats out there that would be requesting the same thing, and they have quite a bit of space.
“There’s also the matter of policing it for them and to keep other boats away from there. There’s also the matter of seeming to conflict with local businesses that have moorage.”
Coun. Marcotte said that the committee would review a report from Wharf Manager David Pratt on designated moorage, and would invite the proponents back in the fall for further discussion.
“It is a public dock,” he pointed out. “If all of a sudden, this group, we were to give them their own float for instance, then a different group would want their own floats and so on, and we didn’t want it to go there at the moment.”
Coun. Janet Dorward was broadly in favour of the proposal, saying, “I think it’s actually a good idea, but I agree that this is the wrong time of year to look at this now.”
Council voted to accept the recommendation that the proposal be denied.
Councillors Marcotte and John Tidbury attended a recent Marine Planning Partnership seminar and returned struck by the lack of emergency response on the coast.
“John and I went to a MaPP meeting in Campbell River,” said coun. Marcotte. “It was very interesting. It showed how unprepared the West Coast is for any spills. There’s nothing there — nothing at all.”
“I enjoyed this seminar,” said coun. Tidbury. “It was absolutely fantastic. Just as (coun. Marcotte) explained, this coast is not prepared — really prepared — for any disaster.”
Coun. Tidbury pointed out that, although an oil spill was a well-established concern, a disaster could take one of several forms. He gave the examples of a passenger liner or a container ship getting into trouble off the coast.
“We have no method to deal with it if that runs aground or anything like that. It’s scary in one sense, and I believe it’s in the hands of the Federal Government. It’s a problem. We’re no further ahead than we were 20-30 years ago.”