Canada ordered to pay Huu-ay-aht more than $1.5 million in damages

The Specific Claims Tribunal, established in 2008, has issued its first award of compensation. On February 10, 2016, the Tribunal ordered that Canada pay Huu-ay-aht First Nations more than $1.5 million for damages flowing from Canada’s breaches of duty relating to an unlawful timber licence issued by Canada in 1948.

The Tribunal is a judicial body, like a court, that hears claims by First Nations against Canada regarding past wrongs, when no resolution to the claim has been reached through negotiations.

Huu-ay-aht filed a claim about logging that took place on former Numukamis IR1 between 1948 and 1969. In 2014, the Tribunal found that Canada had breached its fiduciary obligations in relation to the way the timber was sold.

Justice Whalen found that the timber company should not have been allowed to the harvest timber from IR1 over many decades. By allowing this unlawful and prolonged harvest the value of IR 1 was significantly reduced because regeneration of the timber was delayed and uneven. The Tribunal found compensation was owed to Huu-ay-aht for this
damage, but that it had to be brought forward to 2016 value.

As Chief Robert J. Dennis Sr. said, “This is an important case because the Tribunal ruled that compensation is owed for logging, allowed by the Crown that was not in the best interests of
Huu-ay-aht.”

Based on expert opinions, the Tribunal found that the present day value of compensation owed for damages caused by the prolonged logging of IR1 was more than $1.5 million in 2016. This is the first award issued by the Tribunal to a First Nation.

“It is rewarding, after so many years, to have the Tribunal settle on a partial payment amount,” Chief Dennis explained. “This is the first ruling for the tribunal, and hopefully it shows that the system works.”

Other aspects of Huu-ay-aht’s claim remain outstanding. More legal submissions will occur in Anacla at the Huu-ay-aht government office April 19 to 21, 2016. Following these submissions, the Tribunal will rule on the present day value of the compensation owed to Huu-ay-aht for the remainder of the claim.

Chief Dennis said he is thankful for all of the chiefs that kept this issue going through the decades, including Louie Nookemus, Jack Peter, Arthur Peter, Spencer Peter and Jeff Cook. He said it was rewarding to work with this team, and he is glad their hard work has paid off.

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