(Westerly News file photo)

Tofino condemns ‘racist’ responses to ecosystem service fee proposal

1 per cent fee would have supported Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation’s Tribal Park Allies program.

Tofino’s municipal council is condemning “racist” and “bigoted” emails received in response to a tax aimed at helping the local First Nation that hosts the town’s water reservoirs.

A proposed 1 per cent ecosystem service fee added to Tofino’s water rates would have been transferred to the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation’s Tribal Park Allies program.

“This has landed worse than flat and I apologize to council for the comments that you have received and how it impacted you as individuals,” said district CAO Bob MacPherson. “I have particular regret for some of the comments that I’ve seen directed at Tla-o-qui-aht that make reference to threats and extortion that is being exercised. I want to be really clear for all of council, for my fellow staff members and for anybody watching, that has not been the case at all.”

READ MORE: Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation says more resources needed to keep Tribal Parks open during pandemic

“I don’t have any apology to make to people who had their bigotry triggered by this. It’s unfortunate that this conversation has brought the worst in people, but I hope that it underlines for us a conversation that I think is overdue in Tofino that we need to talk about our roles and living together here on the peninsula.”

READ MORE: Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation asks Tofino businesses for support as emergency funding runs dry

“(This) was an idea that was discussed at strategic planning and one that we were unanimously proud of. We talked about reconciliation and how, as a council, we can do better and be better, both as individuals and members leading our community,” Coun. Britt Chalmers said.

“The Meares Island watershed is a natural asset that we benefit from both in the quality of water and that this clean water continues to be available to us due in no small part to the collective effort of the Clayoquot blockades, a collective effort that today we seek to recognize and to continue in the spirit of reconciliation and cooperation.”

The 1 per cent fee was part of a proposed 14 per cent increase to the district’s water rates, with the other 13 per cent pertaining to backlogged maintenance and repairs.

The 13 per cent increase was approved by council during a March 1 special council meeting and is expected to take effect on April 1. Council declined to approve the additional 1 per cent ecosystem service fee, but agreed to continue the conversation with more public engagement.

The 13 per cent hike will result in about $73 being added to their annual bill. The additional 1 per cent Tribal Parks contribution would have raised that increase by $2 a year.

READ MORE: Pipeline protests spur memories of Clayoquot protests for Tofino and Ucluelet locals


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