Scott Fraser (left), MLA Mid Island-Pacific Rim and British Columbia’s Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, Huu-ay-aht Tayii Ḥaw̓ił ƛiišin (Derek Peters), Chief Councillor Robert J. Dennis Sr.and Western Forest Products CEO Don Demens. (Denise Titian photo).
Huu-ay-aht First Nation has purchased a seven percent interest in Tree Farm Licence 44 from Western Forest Products (WFP) Inc. in a newly formed limited partnership for $7.2 million.
The parties to the partnership say the deal will move them closer toward reconciliation and will help to revitalize the local forestry industry.
The announcement was made at a press conference on Friday, Dec. 14 at the Pacific Coast University for Workplace Health Sciences in Port Alberni.
Rob Botterell, a lawyer working on behalf of Huu-ay-aht, called the partnership an historic one, not only for Huu-ay-aht and WFP, but also for the Alberni Valley and the province of British Columbia.
Elected Chief Councilor Robert Dennis, Huu-ay-aht First Nation, told the crowd that he was happy that Tayii Ḥaw̓ił ƛiišin (Derek Peters) was there for the special announcement.
“His father (Spencer Peters) always wanted Bamfield and Huu-ay-aht to work together. Why not? We live together. He was the one that started the reconciliation process,” said Dennis.
Chief Dennis said that his nation has a goal to enable their people to prosper through what they have at their home lands. He said they broke away from the status quo and sat down with industry to find a different way of doing things – one that benefits everybody.
Huu-ay-aht has territories rich with resources. WFP has transferred the main assets related to TFL 44 to a newly formed Limited Partnership (LP).
Chief Dennis, CEO Don Demens of WFP and MLA Scott Fraser all say that B.C.’s once thriving forestry industry is broken.
“Port Alberni once had the highest per capita income. We’re saying lets work together to get back to where we were; we want to work with Western to generate wealth,” said Dennis.
Demens said the agreement is a move toward reconciliation and revitalization of the forestry industry.
“It’s a new way of doing business,” he said.
According to the Huu-ay-aht, this deal builds on the Reconciliation Protocol Agreement the two parties signed earlier in 2018.
“Huu-ay-aht and Western share the same goals, and together we have demonstrated a track record of cooperation and a willingness to work together to achieve reconciliation and forestry revitalization. We believe by purchasing this tenure, our nation is working toward creating opportunities for citizens on our traditional territory. By working together, we believe we can revitalize forestry in the Alberni Valley,” said the First Nation in a press release.
Demens says the partnership with Huu-ay-aht will provide more flexibility in forestry operations for WFP.
“It gives us access to HFN land base, giving us the ability to work around protected areas,” said Demens.
Chief Dennis said funds have been set aside to begin training Huu-ay-aht members in forestry work the new year. He added that there will be opportunities for contract work and the nation, he said, is willing to invest in members wanting to start up a forestry contracting business.