PRRD board issues direct apology to four Treaty 8 First Nations

The PRRD issued a direct apology to four Treaty 8 First Nations for “the way the [June 8th committee of the whole] meeting unfolded.” 
The Peace River Regional District building in Dawson Creek. A large white
The Peace River Regional District building in Dawson Creek ( Katherine Caddel, )

DAWSON CREEK, B.C. — The Peace River Regional District (PRRD) board has issued a direct apology to four Treaty 8 First Nations for “the way the [June 8th committee of the whole] meeting unfolded.” 

The June 8th meeting was held to provide information to the public about Treaty Land Sharing Networks, a voluntary concept to connect farmers and ranchers to local First Nations by allowing access to their land for cultural practices. Over 1,000 Peace region residents and landowners attended the meeting to express their concerns about the concept. Held at the Pomeroy Hotel and Conference Centre in Fort St. John, the meeting ended abruptly due to overcapacity and was deferred until June 28th.

As a result of the June 8th meeting, the board withdrew its support for Treaty Land Sharing Networks, while the First Nations involved later pulled their request for support. 

A letter dated July 12th, written by Chair Leonard Hiebert on behalf of the regional board and addressed to the chiefs of Doig River, Halfway River, Prophet River, and West Moberly First Nations, apologized for the impact and acknowledged the “negative tone” of the June 8th meeting. 

The apology comes after the regional board received a letter from the four First Nations expressing their concerns and “seeking accountability for the PRRD’s failure to address the highly inappropriate and anti-Indigenous remarks made during the meeting.”

In the letter, Hiebert stated that the board believes that the level of frustration in the room was largely due to the spread of misinformation on social media surrounding Treaty Land Sharing Networks prior to the meeting. 

“We recognize that we were not prepared for the number of people who would attend the meeting, we cannot recall this happening in recent memory,” Hiebert wrote. 

“We were also not ready for the emotions expressed by those who attended.”

Hiebert continued by saying the board was “extremely disappointed” to learn there were racist remarks made during the meeting and said due to the high volume of attendees, they were unaware of the conversations taking place between groups or individuals. 

“If these comments had been made as part of a presentation or at the microphone where our board staff could hear them, we would have immediately addressed these comments as we do not tolerate racism of any kind,” Hiebert wrote. 

“Regardless, we extend to you our sincere apologies for any anti-Indigenous comments or behaviours that you experienced, and we deeply regret that the Indigenous people at the meeting were negatively impacted by the hostility in the room.” 

The letter addressed the misinformation again, saying the board agreed it “played a large part in sidelining the Land Sharing Network initiative” and shared the four First Nation’s disappointment that it took precedence over facts.

“However, it was not our role to lead the communication about this initiative,” Hiebert wrote.

“As you noted, the proposed Network is not a government initiative and does not require government involvement or intervention.”

Hiebert concluded the board’s letter of apology by expressing disappointment that an initiative intended to bring communities closer together by building trust and working relationships ultimately resulted in greater division. 

“This situation demonstrates the importance of open and proactive communication and that we must work together to pursue opportunities to build relationships and address concerns as they arise,” wrote Hiebert. 

“We remain committed to working with all of our neighbours to foster trust and build respectful, meaningful relationships.”

The board’s letter to the four First Nations was not made public and was provided to upon request.

Following the letter, the PRRD released a public apology to the attendees of the June 8th meeting, which can be found here.


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