The Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation provided the following news release:
VICTORIA - The Tlowitsis, We Wai Kai, Wei Wai Kum and K’ómoks First Nations, and Western Forest Products Inc. have reached an agreement for the Nations to acquire a 34% interest from Western in a newly formed limited partnership for $35.9 million.
The Province of British Columbia helped to facilitate the partnership through Incremental Treaty Agreements with the Nations, all of whom are in Stage 5 of the British Columbia Treaty Process.
The formation of the partnership and acquisition by the Nations, who are all member First Nations of the Na̲nwak̲olas Council, is subject to various closing conditions, including subdivision and tenure transfer approvals from the British Columbia Ministry of Forests. Western and the Nations are working toward closing the acquisition in the first quarter of 2024.
The partnership will consist of certain assets and liabilities of Western’s Mid Island Forest Operation, including Block 2 of Tree Farm Licence 39. The operations of the new partnership will cover approximately 157,000 hectares of forest land in the territories of the Nations near the communities of Campbell River and Sayward on eastern Vancouver Island. The partnership will manage an allowable annual cut of 904,540 cubic metres of timber, and includes a long-term fibre agreement to support Western’s British Columbia coastal manufacturing operations.
Map of the five blocks of TFL 39. The agreement covers Block 2.
“Tlowitsis, We Wai Kai, Wei Wai Kum and K’ómoks, who share significant areas of their respective territories, have been stewards of their forests for millenia. Na̲nwak̲olas Council assisted the four Nations in concluding the Agreement. This is a good day for everyone on Vancouver Island and the central coast,” said Dallas Smith, president, Na̲nwak̲olas Council. “For far too long, the very people who are the reason there were healthy, abundant forests here prior to colonization were excluded from participation in their continued sustainable management and any ability to benefit from them. Today, we celebrate a significant step forward on the pathway to sustainable, effective resource management of our forests for the benefit of future generations. I applaud the Nations for taking this step. I acknowledge Western for stepping up into the partnership and thank B.C. for helping make this happen.”
K’ómoks Chief Ken Price, a registered professional forester, said: “Negotiations by K’ómoks towards the acquisition of an economically viable forestry operation began in 2021. Historically, our people have always been involved in the forestry industry. This forestry partnership agreement reflects not only a significant and meaningful incremental step forward in our vision for economic well-being as a Nation, but also our vision for a K’ómoks Treaty with the provincial and federal governments. K’ómoks would like to acknowledge Na̲nwak̲olas Council for its support of the Nations during the negotiations process, and our partners Tlowitsis, We Wai Kai and Wei Wai Kum. As First Nations, we all look forward to taking our rightful place in forestry ownership and management in our territories. The partnership achieves one of the Winning Conditions of reaching a K’ómoks Treaty and K’ómoks has put significant resources into the work that has led up to this point. We thank Western for their work to make the partnership happen and the support for our negotiations over the years from the Government of Canada and from the provincial government.”
Tlowitsis Chief John Smith said: “For Tlowitsis First Nation, this agreement represents a new way forward that is deeply meaningful. The opportunity to be on the ground working on our territories, to provide jobs for our young people, revenue to support our Nation and simply a better way of doing business together, is huge and priceless.”
We Wai Kai Chief Ronnie Chickite said: “We Wai Kai is making significant investments in forestry, including the development and growth of our logging company, Way Key. We appreciate the recognition by Western and British Columbia that we are an integral partner in the forest industry in our territory. This agreement, and the partnership it creates, is an important step forward for our Nation in participating meaningfully in the forest economy and taking back governance over our lands and resources.”
Wei Wai Kum Chief Councillor Christopher Roberts said: “When we speak of reconciliation, here is a living, practical example of reconciliation on the ground. We have raised concerns repeatedly over generations about the immense value and wealth leaving our territory, with little to no benefit to our Nation. We have not been involved at the table in decision-making. Finally, we took a stand four years ago that this must stop. We could not support the replacement of forest licences in our territory that don’t have commitments to address our concerns. But, things are changing. This agreement is proof that it is possible to address multiple interests and generate positive outcomes for all people that call our territory home. Provincial support for this new partnership aligns with the Action Plan on the Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act. It aligns with our demonstrated ability to take back control of our territories and manage them successfully to ensure a better future for our people. I thank Western for sharing that vision of the future with us and congratulate all of the partners and parties involved. It was hard work but will have lasting positive impacts that will increase for generations to come.”
Premier David Eby said: “The partnership is an excellent example of working together towards reconciliation. Incremental Treaty Agreements build trust and ensure First Nations in the treaty process and the entire community experience benefits sooner. This agreement means opportunities are on the way for business, First Nations members and communities on northern Vancouver Island, proving that a rising tide lifts all boats.”
Murray Rankin, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, said: “Tlowitsis, We Wai Kai, Wei Wai Kum and K’ómoks want to work innovatively and collaboratively with B.C. through the Incremental Treaty Agreements. They also wish to work with Western Forest Products to have a lasting and positive impact on communities in north and central Vancouver Island that depend on the forestry industry. It is essential that these First Nations have a greater role in forestry, to advance their own economic goals and to advance reconciliation.”
Steven Hofer, Western’s president and CEO, said: “Our agreement is another step forward in Western’s ongoing commitment to economic reconciliation and setting a solid foundation that benefits workers, communities and shareholders. Together with our partners, we are ushering in a new era of forestry in this province—one where everyone has the opportunity to fully participate and benefit.”
THE COVER STORY in the September 15, 2023 Discovery Islander implied that a large Western red cedar in a grove at Ralph Point on Quadra Island was in some way threatened, apparently by logging. In conversations before the story appeared, it emerged that flagging tape near the grove had been interpreted as indicating that logging was imminent near the grove in Woodlot 1970, which is operated by Cape Mudge Forestry.
It turns out, though, that it was old flagging tape and no logging is being contemplated near the grove.
Forester Gary Gallinger, who works as a consultant with Cape Mudge Forestry, stated in an email: “The area immediately above Ralph Point, as identified in your link, is not being harvested. Some fellow staff met with another Quadra resident yesterday (Monday September 19) who also had concerns that this area was planned for harvest. It was during this discussion that the resident, who is a retired faller, mentioned some old road Right-of-Way ribbon and some scattered Falling boundary ribbon is within the area you identified. We will be removing those old ribbons. There was a previous consulting firm that used to work on the [Cape Mudge] Woodlots, and we understand that this consultant had done some preliminary field engineering in this area and had originally proposed a road location within the area of concern. Once those ribbons are removed, I trust that the concerns brought up regarding Ralph Point will go away.”
Gallinger added, “Be aware that the We Wai Kai Nation has done an archaeological assessment of the area around Ralph Point and it has been identified as an area of high potential. That’s why the road and cutblock are at their present locations.”
The DI article published the GPS coordinates of the grove. Since the area has high First Nations heritage potential, the Discovery Islands Forest Conservation Project encourages people not to visit the site. Instead, go to this page and visit the grove online.
The largest tree in the grove, featured on the cover of the Discovery Islander