Sunday, March 07, 2010

Jack Ebbels - 1948 to 2010

Just over a week ago Jack Ebbels died in Alberta while skiing. Jack was best know for his negotiation of the Nisga'a Treaty.

I only knew Jack in passing. Though I have one story.

In late 90s (1997?), I had a meeting at Aborginal Affairs in Victoria for Treaty negotiations. We were talking technical stuff, GIS capabilities and such. I was the only person there for Ts'kw'aylaxw, the province had about six people there, three ab affairs, one MoF and two GIS people.

All the provincial people were dressed as if it was casual Friday. I was in a suit, one I had custom made in Thailand which still fit me at the time. The civil servants were all sort of staring at me because I was dressed up that much. I have normally taken the attitude when working on the First Nation side that dressing better than the government people puts them at a disadvantage and makes them think the First Nation has a lot more resources and ability than they expected.

So this meeting is going on and I am appalled at the low quality of maps they were offering. While this was happening, Jack walks in wearing the sort of high price suit that he always wore. He looked like he was just dropping for a quick visit and asked what the meeting was and seemed ready to go. He then noticed me and quickly came to shake my hand.

I think he thought I was the band lawyer, but I quickly made it clear I was technical staff for Ts'kw'aylaxw. He seemed impressed that I was dressed well and sent some subtle body language messages that I was the person in the room taking the meeting seriously. Instead of leaving he sat down at the head of the table to stay for the rest of the meeting.

Since we had just started and the province had just spread out their nice new maps they had printed it was early in the meeting. The provincial staff were proud of their maps but there blatant mistakes on them. So in front of Jack Ebbels I took a certain pleasure in pointing out the mistakes.

I started out pointing out what the map showed as fee simple land and what was not had huge errors. I said that from the band's point of view this was no big deal but that the province would be crucified if they showed up in Lillooet with a map that showed half of the Diamond S Ranch was now Crown Land. The civil servants looked a bit uncomfortable. Jack smiled. I then pointed out that there were several small lakes on an incline on the map. The provincial people were quiet with shock and disbelief. I think they needed some moments to take in simple reality of this error. I put my finger on the contour lines on the map and showed how they ran through the lake. If think Jack Ebbels was possibly laughing to himself. I then pointed that the lakes had no inflow or outflows.

Having the knowledge of the area, as soon as I saw the lake location I knew it was some sort of aerial photo digitizing error because they were ginseng fields. The civil servants looked sheepish. Jack Ebbels thanked me for coming and thanking me for helping his staff correct the mistakes. He gave me a very warm handshake.

Over the next years I would run into him from time to time at various larger meetings like the First Nations Summit. I also ran into him in the elevator once in the Pandora Street building. Each time he greeted me by name and asked how life was in Pavilion.

It is BC's loss that he died.


Mr Squid said...

I am constantly amazed at the number of people who go to meetings without doing even the most basic preparation beforehand.

G West said...

You're right about Jack - he was certainly all about appearances...I knew him for years - including his time as a tennis pro in Saskatchewan and I went to College with his brother Hal.

As for actually accomplishing something instead of simply looking good and acting like your best friend even though he didn't know you from Adam....I'll just refrain from posting anything further out of deference to the dead and respect for his estranged wife.

Jack was not the person who 'got' things done at the ministry...far from it. He did manage to clean up when it came to collecting the glory though.

Anonymous said...

you have no clue G west what my dad did. piss on you

Anonymous said...

Calen speaks!!
The Internet is full of not nice things about your dad. Wonder if any of them are true.
I will still never forget him calling a runner on first safe after I dropped the ball at first. Should have been out soon as I touched the bag!