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Topics:

  1. While The Rest Of Us Slept, Larry Pynn Was On The Beat
  2. North Cowichan Lacks ‘Depth Of Experience’ At Engagement, Says First Nations Consultant


1. While The Rest Of Us Slept, Larry Pynn Was On The Beat


Icel Dobell

During the recent period of dense smoke, journalist Larry Pynn’s two articles about a parallel smoke screen from the Municipality of North Cowichan (MNC) also hung in the air.

Perhaps you were too busy trying to breathe and figure out what mask to wear to notice two of the most important articles about public consultation and the municipal forest campaign recently published.

Now that the smoke has lifted, the articles remain critical documents to read.

Two years ago, into our Valley retired one of BC’s most renowned and respected investigative journalists. Larry Pynn has won more than 30 journalism awards, including for investigative reporting. The moment he arrived, he noticed clearcuts coming over the tops of the mountains. It was election time and he immediately set about asking candidates for Council tough questions about where they stood on logging of the Six Mountains. Soon after, he published his first of several articles on the community forests in the Times Colonist. https://bit.ly/309yrub

At the same time, Where Do We Stand was coming together as a grassroots forest movement—hundreds of neighbours, none of us experienced, not one of us asking candidates questions about logging. Pynn was so ahead of the game he made the rest of us look like we were asleep. It is the difference between a pro on the beat and the pubic writing letters to the newspaper.

Pynn created a blog, sixmountains.ca. It grew. As a professional—four decades at the Vancouver Sun— with 30 years of training, he went in search of everything hidden, filing one freedom-of-information (FOI) request after another due to what he calls “the lack of openness and transparency at Municipal Hall.”

Recently, Pynn received FOI documents that revealed layer after layer— answers to the questions we’ve been asking about backroom negotiations about our community forests.  

Whether you have been following Pynn, or not, no matter what your values are for the forests, if you want to know the facts, you should check out Pynn’s recently reorganized sixmountains.ca as a chronological and indexed library on the forest campaign.

Let us profit from having this level of investigative journalism in our Valley. Please subscribe to his blog.

But, wait. Just as I finish writing this, another article from Pynn comes through—this one shedding light on questions about the First Nations Engagement. The plot thickens. 

 


2. North Cowichan Lacks ‘Depth Of Experience’ At Engagement, Says First Nations Consultant


Larry Pynn - sixmountains.ca 

The president of a consulting firm that provided early advice on North Cowichan’s engagement with First Nations on the Municipal Forest Reserve says the municipality lacks experience in the area.

“The one thing I would say is that the municipality does not seem to have a depth of experience in engagement and consultation, either on the public stakeholders’ side or on the Indigenous side,” Cheryl Brooks of Indigenuity Consulting Group (indigenuity.ca) said in an interview with Six Mountains. “They had a team that was relatively green in the area.”

Brooks says she worked a short time on North Cowichan’s consultation with First Nations before being informed by Lees + Associates in January 2020 that the Municipality had moved on. Lees is the Vancouver-based consultant hired by North Cowichan to lead consultations on the 5,000-hectare forest reserve, also known as Six Mountains.

“I provided a scope and they asked me to ‘up’ the scope…they wanted more things done around policy,” said Brooks, who is based in North Cowichan.

“I provided that information to them, went to a few planning meetings and after I set the scope I got a notice that they were changing direction and going with someone else.

“I don’t know what it was about. I never really followed up. I always have lots of work, so, I just basically said: ‘Ok, that one’s off the table, and I’m off to my next activity.’

“I know, from day one, the one thing I said to them is that my company works extensively in consultation with (First) Nations…and the enduring principle is that we won’t do a half-assed job for anybody. So, I don’t know if they felt what we were saying was more complex than what they were hoping.”

Megan Jordan, manager of communications and public engagement for North Cowichan, said in response that while “Indigenuity was listed as a sub-consultant” with Lees + Associates’ original proposal, “North Cowichan did not enter into an agreement with them and no services were provided by Indigenuity.”

Instead, North Cowichan hired Alan Dolan & Associates (alandolan.com) for $40,300 “as they have consulted with local First Nations on many large-scale projects and have a reputation as a competent consultancy who specialize in the intricacies” of First Nations consultations.

Brooks confirmed she received no money for her work and did not bill the municipality. She asked that all documents she provided to the municipality be destroyed.

Brooks is a Sto:lo from the community of Sts’ailes in the the upper Fraser Valley and a former associate deputy minister in the B.C. ministry of energy and mines.

Earlier this month, Six Mountains received municipal freedom-of-information documents revealing that Alan Dolan & Associates had won the First Nations consulting contract.

See: https://www.sixmountains.ca/municipal-documents-expose-shameful

Dolan, who is based in Sooke, says he took the job in February 2020 at the request of the municipality. He noted he was already consulting with First Nations on another municipal matter, the Joint Utility Board Sewage Treatment Plant outfall relocation project, so North Cowichan “knew I worked well with the First Nations.”

For more information on the sewage project, visit: https://bit.ly/3j6RpsB.

North Cowichan has no legal obligation — or mandate from its electorate — to consult with First Nations on the forest reserve. The courts have ruled that senior governments must consult and accommodate First Nations on resource developments.

Responded Brooks: “My advice to anyone on this particular topic is how important is the consent or support of the First Nations on what it is you’re doing.”

What might First Nations hope to gain from these consultations?

Said Brooks: “From a general perspective…you’d be very strategic and say: ‘What leverage do we have? Does this present an opportunity for us to raise concerns about decisions made in the past that may have impacted us.

“You’d look for whatever opportunity you could out of it. When you open the dialogue, the potential for very expansive discussions happen.”

Dolan said the first steps in the consultation process involve building relationships.

“Speaking generally, there’s a lot of history…and relationships with First Nations between governments and companies that have not been very healthy.

“There’s a need to talk for a while to build some trust, to build a relationship. At the moment, these meetings are at a very early stage. Not too many things have been sorted out that they can be talked about publicly.”

Click on the link below to read the full article and to view Larry Pynn's new website.

https://www.sixmountains.ca/north-cowichan-lacks-depth-of-exper
 
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