Skeena Politician Ellis Ross MIA on Recognition of Haida Title

Local MLA fails to show for vote on historic Haida Gwaii agreement.

Ellis Ross was elected MLA for Skeena in 2017 and 2020. He currently serves as the Shadow Minister for Energy and LNG for the BC United Party.

BC United MLA for the Skeena, Ellis Ross, is facing scrutiny after failing to show up for a crucial vote on a bill that recognizes the Haida Nation’s Aboriginal title throughout Haida Gwaii.

On Monday, April 29, 2024, the Legislative Assembly met for a motion for a second reading of Bill (No. 25), also known as the Haida Nation Recognition Amendment Act. The motion passed with the support of 48 BC NDP and two Independent votes. There were 23 opposing votes, 21 from BC United and two from the BC Conservatives. Skeena MLA, Ellis Ross, did not vote.

“For years, we’ve envisioned and worked towards reestablishing an economy that aligns with our values and traditions — one that sustains rather than exploits the land and sea.”

Gaagwiis Jason Alsop, President of the Haida Nation

The historic Act formally acknowledges the Haida’s title to their land and specifies “a staged transition to Haida jurisdiction, while protecting and maintaining private property rights and existing government services and infrastructure on Haida Gwaii.” 

Ellis Ross recently announced that he would be running as the federal Conservative Party candidate for Skeena–Bulkley Valley against NDP incumbent Taylor Bachrach in the 2025 federal election. Photo credit: Pierre Poilievre on Facebook

Last month, the Haida Nation commended the provincial government for “making things right after over 150 years of denial.” From the assembly floor, President of the Haida Nation, Gaagwiis Jason Alsop stated, “For years, we’ve envisioned and worked towards re-establishing an economy that aligns with our values and traditions — one that sustains rather than exploits the land and sea. We can now take hold of that vision and create a future where the land and sea will nurture us for generations to come.”

On March 22, the BC United Caucus posted a statement opposing the Haida title legislation. Party leader Kevin Falcon and Michael Lee, shadow minister for the Attorney General and for Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, said the agreement is “shrouded in secrecy” and the government is “fostering a climate of uncertainty that will deter investment and destabilize the land base across our province.” 

In the span of 20 years, the BC government and the Council of the Haida Nation have completed several reconciliation initiatives. These include agreements on shared decision-making between the two governments in forestry and protected area management. Photo credit: Province of British Columbia on Flickr

The NDP was quick to reject these claims by BC United, stating that private property and investment will be secure. “[P]rivate property is 100% protected and will always be, going forward, protected,” said Murray Rankin, BC’s minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation.

The First Nations Leadership Council (FNLC) also condemned the “misleading and factually incorrect” statement from the opposition party and argued the agreement would benefit all of BC. 

Ross, a former Chief Councillor for the Haisla Nation, announced in January 2024 that he would be running in the next federal election as the Conservative Party of Canada’s candidate for the Skeena–Bulkley Valley against NDP incumbent Taylor Bachrach.

Haida in the House as the B.C. government acknowledges Aboriginal title. Photo credit: Nathan Cullen on Facebook.

The third reading of the Haida Nation Recognition Bill is expected to take place in the Legislative Assembly this week. The Province and the Haida Nation say they will continue to work together to reconcile the two different governments and legal structures. Other jurisdictions like health, transportation, education and emergency services will remain under provincial and municipal control. 

We reached out to Ellis Ross’s office for comment but did not hear back by our publishing deadline. 

Written by The Skeena

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