Haida's management of Gwaii Haanas Park fêted

<p>The&nbsp;recent recognition of Gwaii Haanas as the best park
in the world is a remarkable achievement. But one important aspect of the story
that has received scant attention is the innovative&nbsp;decision making regime&nbsp;that
governs&nbsp;the park.</p>

<p>Gwaii Haanas, on Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands)
is managed under a unique arrangement that is built upon the Haida First
Nation’s assertion of Title. </p>

<p>The Gwaii Haanas Agreement
is an agreement between the Council of Haida Nations and the
Government of Canada. The Agreement acknowledges the existence of two distinct
yet equal land designations for Gwaii Haanas – as a Haida Heritage Site and
a&nbsp;National&nbsp;Park. </p>

<p>The uniqueness of&nbsp;the Gwaii Haanas Agreement&nbsp;stems from&nbsp;its de
facto power sharing arrangement. Thus, consensus decisions result in a
recommendation to both the Haida and Canadian governments. As a result,&nbsp;and
unlike most Co-Management agreements with First Natins, the Agreement does not
explicitly place final decision-making in the hands of the Canadian Government.
Rather, the relationship between the authorities of the Haida and Canadian
governments is left vague. </p>

<p>While few existing agreements other than Gwaii Haanas
truly share power equally between First Nations and government, a few
agreements&nbsp;do allow some First Nations to exercise significant control over some
decisions prior to the resolution of larger land claims. These are generally
Co-Management agreements.&nbsp; </p>

<p>The distinctions between Co-management and shared
jurisdiction are subtle, but important. Under a Co-Management arrangement a
decision making role is delegated. Conversely, in a shared jurisdictional
model, two equal parties come together and share decision-making.&nbsp; </p>

<p>Despite the rhetoric about ‘new relationships,” shared
jurisdictional models in British Columbia are rare. Power-sharing arrangements
like Gwaii Haanaa can only result from government- to-government negotiations
between First Nations’ and Canadian governments. And the Crown has resisted
negotiating power sharing. </p>

<p>That is why the often untold back story about how the
Haida were able to get the Gwaii Haanas arrangement implemented is so important
to other First Nations and people who care about conservation. </p>

<p>It didn’t just happen; the Haida forced the government’s
hand by unilaterally declaring the area a Haida Heritage Site and joining with
environmentalists pushing for protection of the South Moresby Island. Together,
the Haida’s resolve, their strategic assertion of the Title, the collective
actions of the Haida, community and environmental activists, led to this unique
arrangement.</p>

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