On February 2, I held a Southern Mountain Caribou Closures Town Hall in Fort St. John to allow our local representatives, stakeholders, and residents an opportunity to come together as a community to discuss possible closures in our region, and what it could mean to our economy and our outdoor recreational way of life.
I want to thank everyone who attended the town hall and shared their thoughts and concerns about this issue. I especially want to thank Kathleen Connolly and Derek Clark with Concerned Citizens for Caribou Recovery, Gerry Paille with BC Wildlife Federation, MLA Dan Davies, MLA Mike Bernier, Mayor Lori Ackerman, Mayor Allen Courtoreille, Mayor Rob Fraser, and Peace River Regional District Chair Brad Sperling for speaking at the event and sharing what they knew.
I had also invited the Honourable Doug Donaldson, BC Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, as well as our region’s First Nations Chiefs to attend and speak to the issue. Unfortunately they were unable to attend.
I wanted to have this town hall because so many of you have come to me to voice your concerns about the lack of transparency behind these caribou recovery plans. Previous public meetings have been canceled and we are still no closer to finding out what is going to happen in our own backyard.
It's clear from this town hall that residents are very much concerned about the lack of information available surrounding possible caribou closures. What we want are answers, to have a seat at the table, and to be a part of the conversation when these decisions are made.
For those who were unable to attend the town hall, a video of the presentations and the Q&A that followed is available on my Facebook page. I will also be writing a letter to the Honourable Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, summarizing the meeting and our concerns that were shared.
I also want to encourage those who have concerns to continue to write to the provincial and federal ministers either in charge of or influential in the caribou recovery planning. Here are their email addresses and phone numbers once again:
- Honourable Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change: Catherine.McKenna@parl.gc.ca and 613-946-8682
- Sean Fraser, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change: Sean.Fraser@parl.gc.ca and 902-752-0226
- Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard: Jonathan.Wilkinson@parl.gc.ca and 604-775-6333
- Honourable George Heyman, BC Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy: george.heyman.MLA@leg.bc.ca and 604-775-2453
- Honourable Doug Donaldson, BC Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development: doug.donaldson.MLA@leg.bc.ca and 250-842-6338
- Honourable Scott Fraser, BC Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation: scott.fraser.MLA@leg.bc.ca and 250-720-4515
As a follow up to this town hall, Guy Lahaye of the North Peace Rod and Gun Club suggested I host a roundtable with local residents, associations, First Nations, industries, recreationalists, and our municipal, provincial and federal representatives.
I have also spoken to Mayor Lyn Hall and MLA Mike Morris about hosting a similar town hall in Prince George. It's important that we continue to push for an open, public conversation about these possible closures and I will be sharing more details about the roundtable and a possible town hall in Prince George in the coming weeks.
As I said during the town hall, we all want to see the caribou survive in our region but we want our communities to survive as well.
We need a recovery plan that is crafted by those of us who live in the area rather than by lawyers in Victoria and Ottawa.
Our survival depends on it.
Bob Zimmer is the Member of Parliament for Prince George-Peace River-Northern Rockies.