In the fall of 1985, a small but resolute group took a stand against clear cut logging. The group of Haida elders, youth and civic citizens from all across the country held fast in a peaceful resistance that resulted in a total of 72 arrests. Their small movement won global attention, and resulted in the established of the Gwaii Haanas Park Reserve/Haida Heritage Site.
In 1988 the Government of Canada, along with the Province of BC, created the South Moresby Agreement (SMA). The original intent and purpose of the SMA was twofold, firstly, as the newly designated park lands removed working forests from Haida Gwaii, islanders wanted to see the recreation and continuation of those jobs that would be lost once the logging stopped. The Crown calculated that the parklands equated to roughly 300,000 cubic meters of working forest, and this translated into approximately 135 full time equivalents. While it was noted the park had the potential to create its own share of jobs all agreed that this transition could take some time. Secondly the Crown felt that by removing 300,000 cubic meters of working forest any efforts that could be made to make the island remaining forests more efficient would greatly benefit the communities in the long run.
This agreement resulted in the creation of two local legacy funds to be used to create economic opportunity on Haida Gwaii.
The first fund, established in Sep. 1994, was the Gwaii Trust Society. This fund, comprised of $38.2 million, was created with a local Board of Directors representing all island communities in a consensus driven, demographically split Board of Directors. This fund was set up as a perpetual fund, and still operates today.
The second fund initially began life as the South Moresby Forest Repatriation Account. (SMFRFA)This fund had split representation between the Crown and locals, with funding primarily allocated to forestry based proposals. This second fund, initially $24 million, was expected to be spent down over a number of years, however strong financial markets generating a steady stream of returns kept replenishing the balance beyond eligible projects, and in the spring 2007 the Crown turned the fund over to the communities of Haida Gwaii to be managed under the same model as the Gwaii Trust Society (GTS). The Crown, so impressed with the functioning of the GTS, decreed that the Trustees of the then named Gwaii Forest Charitable Trust, be represented by three Trustees; one corporate Trustee, which was to be the Gwaii Trust Society, as a whole entity, and two individual members, which was to be the two Executive members of the Gwaii Trust Society.
As of April 5th 2014, the Trustees of the Gwaii Forest Charitable Trust changed the fund’s name to the Athlii Gwaii Legacy Trust. The change was precipitated by the Trustees in an attempt to honour the birthplace of the Trust. Athlii Gwaii is the Haida name for Lyell Island where islanders first stood shoulder to shoulder to protect the scared grounds of Lyell Island.
All Trustees, policies, procedures and governance practices remain as previous. And like the GTS, the original principle, plus an annual increment for inflation, must be set aside each year to guarantee that both funds will remain in perpetuity. Only the interest generated from the investments is available for community granting of approved projects meeting the criteria outlined within the original Deed of Trust, creating an enduring legacy to the benefit of many future generations of islanders.
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