Mark Grinder knows he is about to embark upon something big.
The 41-year-old is the first person hired as a Haida fish, wildlife and land guardian with the Haida Gwaii Integrated Natural Resource Compliance and Enforcement Unit, and he cannot help but feel proud.
“I grew up with an uncle who was an RCMP and there was something about being in a uniform, serving the public and leading by example,” said Grinder, a member of the Skidegate band and who previously worked as a fisheries guardian for the Haida Nation. “I just really like enforcement work and I think this will open a lot of doors. It’s an exciting time.”
In 2009, a pilot project was approved for the development of an integrated approach to compliance and enforcement on Haida Gwaii. The approach would bring together the B.C. Conservation Officer Service (COS), Natural Resource Officers and the Council of the Haida Nation into an integrated unit, supporting the interests and priorities of the Haida Nation and the Province.
But what that unit consists of has been modified during the past five years to advance reconciliation with the Haida Nation. Today, it consists of conservation officer sergeant Kyle Ackles, who supervises natural resource officer Dan Skafte, Grinder and conservation officer Tony Maestrello — one of the 16 new recruits who finished training at the end of October.
According to Ackles, Grinder’s position is unique. Bringing Haida values into daily operations, he will assist with investigations involving forestry violations and conduct the duties of an auxiliary conservation officer while working toward full status. Assisting the Parks Canada wardens with patrols in Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve is also part of the job.
“We’ll definitely have a much stronger presence on the land. That will be positive for deterring violators and good for communities,” said Ackles, who arrived in Haida Gwaii a year and a half ago. “We have the ability here to be proactive and get out in the field. It’s a very unique place and there’s nowhere else in the province like it.”
The Council of the Haida Nation has been involved every step of the way in the creation and hiring of the guardian — a position jointly funded by the council, Parks Canada and the Province. Council members are in the midst of developing a shoulder patch to represent the Haida Nation on Grinder’s uniform. For council stewardship director Colin Richardson, having a Haida representative integrated with the COS is another step toward reconciliation.
“Reconciliation isn’t a slam dunk. We haven’t clearly defined what it actually is,” said Richardson. “We’re making progress and it’s positive building relationships like this.”
To learn more about the B.C. Conservation Officer Service, visit:
To learn more about the Council of Haida Nation, visit: http://www.haidanation.ca/