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Public process and the creation of a marine protected area at Race Rocks, British Columbia LeRoy, Alfred Sean

Abstract

The creation of a marine protected area in British Columbia is a political process that must reconcile the wants of several jurisdictions and interests. One forum for consultation and reconciliation is a consensus process, where individuals representing differing interests engage in long-term, face-to-face discussions, seeking agreement on strategy, plans, policies, and actions. This study employed qualitative methods to examine the successes and shortcomings of the consensus process associated with the forthcoming designation of the Xwayarj (Race Rocks) Marine Protected Area, which will be Canada's first marine protected area under the federal Oceans Act. Known as the Race Rocks Advisory Board, this process included government, aboriginal and stakeholder representatives, and was successful at negotiating consensus recommendations in support of designation. Notable among the recommendations were provisions for the creation of a no-take zone, and for the establishment of a co-management regime involving First Nations, British Columbia and Canada. However, once submitted, these recommendations were misrepresented in the federal government's regulatory approval process, leading to protest by various First Nations and a halt to final designation. Both the misrepresentation and the protest involved groups that were not part of the Race Rocks Advisory Board. This suggests that consensus processes for the creation of marine protected areas should include representatives from each part of the designation process, including delegates from all affected First Nations and all relevant branches of government. To achieve this, it is recommended that future consensus processes be jointly convened by Canada, British Columbia and affected First Nations, respecting the government-to-government relationship between the three parties. The joint convenors would negotiate what form of co-ordination and facilitation should take place in the process, and which stakeholders should be involved. In effect, this would be a comanaged consensus process — an experiment with a new form of public engagement, which is in keeping with the 'learning-by-doing' approach endorsed by federal policies for the creation of marine protected areas under the Oceans Act.

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