Huu-ay-aht to receive $5.4 million in treaty loan forgiveness from Federal Government

Huu-ay-aht First Nations received notice from the Federal Government that loan payments related to the treaty negotiation in the amount of $5.4 million will be forgiven effective as of March 31, 2020.  The Federal Government will be returning nearly five million in cash to Huu-ay-aht First Nation over the next five years, and the federal government has also forgiven the half million debt outstanding.

Former B.C. Treaty Commissioner and Huu-ay-aht Ḥaw̓iiḥ Tom Happynook is please that after so many years of British Columbian First Nations, First Nations Summit, and the B.C. Treaty Commission pushing for treaty loan forgiveness, the Federal Government has finally agreed to reimburse treaty loans.

“It is with sincere appreciation that Huu-ay-aht First Nations applaud Canada for correcting a long-time policy of making First Nations pay for their new relationship with British Columbia and Canada. This new federal approach to treaty negotiations in B.C. is a welcome policy change and can in its simplicity create a much better environment to negotiate a Modern-Day Comprehensive Treaty,” Happynook explained. “As a former B.C. Treaty Commissioner, I am pleased that our hard work in Ottawa transformed the face of treaty negotiations in British Columbia. I am hopeful that other B.C. First Nations who are not in the B.C. treaty process will see this as a much better bridge to negotiating a new relationship with B.C. and Canada with no costs incurred.”

Huu-ay-aht, along with the other Maa-nulth First Nations, spent millions of dollars to negotiate their final agreement in the treaty. At that time, the policy was that Indigenous groups would be required to take on a loan to negotiate their treaty. Although the Nation did receive compensation as part of the treaty package, Huu-ay-aht was expected to repay Canada for the cost of negotiations.

“It has taken a lot of years and dedication to get to this day, but I am so glad to hear that the Federal Government is going to do the right thing and repay these funds,” explained Huu-ay-aht’s Chief Councillor Robert J. Dennis Sr. “It is reassuring to see, even during the difficult time COVID-19 has created, that the Government of Canada is still committed to economic reconciliation efforts with First Nations communities.”

In the 2018 budget, Canada announced it would no longer require Indigenous groups to repay these loans to fund comprehensive claims negotiations and moved to a grant-based system that did not require repayment. Following extensive negotiations, the 2019 budget included a promise to forgive all outstanding comprehensive claim negotiation loans and repay the self-governing Indigenous governments that have already repaid the loans.

Huu-ay-aht made regular payments and was almost finished repaying its loan when the negotiations began. At that time, the Nation ceased payments, confident it would qualify for repayment. The Federal Government has now committed to repaying Huu-ah-aht a total of $4,916,016.00. These funds are to be repaid in five equal installments over the next five years, with the first payment coming this fiscal year.

A letter to the Nation from Honourable Carolyn Bennett states, “Canada continues to be committed to advancing reconciliation and recognizing Indigenous rights. I hope that the forgiveness of this debt demonstrates this commitment in a concrete way and will enhance financial stability and enable your community to improve access to funding mechanisms that may not have been otherwise available due to the outstanding liability.”

In the Budget 2018 document it states switching to a grant system is intended to allow Indigenous communities to invest in their priorities like governance, infrastructure, and economic development, that will increase the health and well-being for all community members. The funds should also allow Indigenous communities and governments to use their resources to strengthen their communities and improve the quality of life for its members.

Huu-ay-aht is committed to following these guidelines to ensure the Nation benefits from the funds they will receive over the next five years.

Note: Imagine is from the signing of the Maa-nulth Treaty.

Huu-ay-aht asks drivers to use extra caution as dusty roads create safety concern

(PORT ALBERNI – June 5, 2020) – A recent serious accident on the Bamfield Main road offers a reminder to drivers that dust on logging roads during summer months create a serious safety concern. Huu-ay-aht First Nations (“Huu-ay-aht”) wants to caution motorists to drive carefully if they head to Bamfield this summer.

“Stan Coleman, a Registered Professional Forester and Huu-ay-aht’s Forest Consultant, is an experienced driver and has travelled the Bamfield road most of his career, and yet last week he hit a logging truck that was invisible to him in the dusty roads. Luckily, he was fine, but he totaled his vehicle,” explains Chief Councillor Robert J. Dennis Sr. “Since the Bamfield road opened in the 70s, Huu-ay-aht has lost eight citizens on this road and witnessed countless accidents, many related to dust obscuring visibility.”

It has been nine months since the tragic University of Victoria bus accident claimed two lives along the 85-kilometre stretch of logging road, and Huu-ay-aht continues to push the B.C. government to get the road upgraded. The Nation is calling for chipsealing to reduce dust and other safety improvements. In April of 2019, Premier John Horgan travelled the road to meet with Huu-ay-aht leadership and committed to safety upgrades.

Last week, in a meeting with Huu-ay-aht, Mid Island-Pacific Rim MLA and Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation, Scott Fraser, promised to continue to push for the necessary approvals to move the Bamfield Road improvement project forward. Until that time, Huu-ay-aht encourages people to drive cautiously and to respect road conditions.

RCMP Constable Peter Batt also urges people to keep their speed down, especially when conditions are dusty.

“You need time to stop at the last second with all this dust on the road,” he said. “If you are doing the trip in less than 90 minutes, you are driving too fast.” 

He also reminds drivers that it is important to make sure your headlights and taillights are turned on so that people coming toward you and up behind you can see you are there.

Huu-ay-aht has committed $5 million to the Bamfield road improvement project and needs an additional $25.7 million to complete it. In addition to making the road safer for residents, workers and visitors, improving the road is an important step for the whole region and can be part of the economic recovery strategy for the Alberni Valley. The City of Port Alberni and the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District understand this and have offered their full support, as have other area First Nations communities, the Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre, the United Steelworkers, Western Forest Products, Mosaic Forest Management, the University of Victoria, Indigenous Tourism BC, Tourism Industry Association of BC, the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council and other Provincial First Nations organizations.

“Everyone supports and understands the need for this work to be done,” explains Chief Dennis. “We are hopeful that the province will approve this project soon so that we can improve safety and save lives.”

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About Huu-ay-aht First Nations – Huu-ay-aht First Nations is an indigenous community located on the west coast of Vancouver Island in British Columbia. It is a part of the
Nuu-chah-nulth Nation, formerly called the Nootka. Huu-ay-aht is a party to the Maa-nulth Final Agreement, a modern treaty that grants its five member-nations constitutionally protected self-government as well as ownership, control, and law-making authority over their lands and resources. For more information, visit huuayaht.org.

Huu-ay-aht notified it now qualifies for national wage subsidy for businesses

Huu-ay-aht First Nations is pleased to learn this week that the Nation now  qualifies for the Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy that was announced by the Federal Government in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In April, the federal government introduced the program, offering employers who qualify a subsidy that would cover up to 75 per cent of their employees’ wages for 12 weeks. Businesses must be able to show they have suffered revenue declines of 30 per cent or more as a result of COVID-19. At the time, the Huu-ay-aht Group of Businesses did not meet the criteria for this subsidy because the limited partnership structure is not considered an “eligible employer”.

Huu-ay-aht immediately took steps to reverse this decision, including working with the area MP Gord Johns in Ottawa and an aggressive media campaign. The Nations’ efforts paid off, as the Assistant Deputy  Minister of Lands and Economic Development Kelley Blanchette notified Chiefs across Canada, including Huu-ay-aht Chief Councillor Robert J. Dennis Sr. that the Nation now qualified.

“This is very good news for our Nation and our businesses,” explained Chief Dennis. “It just goes to show it’s worth standing up for what you believe in. Because our nation, and others across the country, raised the alarm about unfair criteria, hundreds of jobs will be saved.”

Chief Dennis also pointed out that this highlights the importance of the Nation forming their COVID-19 task force. Because that task force was in place when they learned they were not qualified they were able to come up with a plan and take immediate action.

The Huu-ay-aht Group of Businesses was optimistic that the criteria would be changed, therefore, no one has lost their job because of COVID-19. That meant HGB was carrying a significant amount of staffing costs in hopes that the subsidy would become available. That was not sustainable for a long period of time, so this decision to extend the eligibility to include Indigenous government-owned corporations was a critical step. It will be retroactive to March 15, 2020.

HGB will qualify for the subsidy based on its estimates that economic impact will be far greater than the required 30 per cent. In March, the Group of Businesses saw a 34 per cent decrease in forestry revenue, 44 per cent drop in sales at the Market in Bamfield, and a 65 per cent drop in their hospitality revenue. HGB employs 55 full-time equivalent positions during its peak season. The wage subsidy will be applied to these sectors. The Nation is developing an economic recovery plan. The wage subsidy will go a long way to help keep citizens employed and businesses operating during a difficult economic period in Canada.

Huu-ay-aht First Nations and Mosaic Forest Management Corp. Commit to Furthering Reconciliation and Forest Sector Sustainability

Huu-ay-aht First Nations (“Huu-ay-aht”) and Mosaic Forest Management Corporation (“Mosaic”) announced today the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (“MOU”) which affirms their commitment to reconciliation, sustainability, and adherence to Huu-ay-aht values on its traditional territory (“Ḥahuułi”).
 
This MOU also solidifies both parties’ commitment to a viable forest sector in the Alberni Valley by continuing to seek mutually beneficial economic opportunities.
 
Building a relationship based on trust, mutual respect, open communication, and fair dealing will help both parties ensure all operations that take place within the Ḥahuułi follow Huu-ay-aht’s three sacred principles: hišuk ma c̓awak (“everything is one”); ʔuuʔałuk (“taking care of”); and ʔiisaak (“utmost respect”).
 
“We look forward to working with Mosaic to ensure Huu-ay-aht forestry interests and long-term strategic vision for our citizens are achieved across the Ḥahuułi in a manner that respects UNDRIP and Huu-ay-aht values,” said Chief Councillor Robert J. Dennis Sr. “Signing this MOU will bolster our efforts in protecting our land through watershed renewal and will provide new employment, training and mentorship opportunities for Huu-ay-aht citizens.”
 
“We strive to build strong relationships with First Nations partners consistent with our deep respect for indigenous rights and our commitments under the Progressive Aboriginal Relations certification,” said Mosaic President and Chief Executive Officer Jeff Zweig. “This new agreement further solidifies Mosaic and Huu-ay-aht’s commitment to work together to create opportunities for shared benefit.”   
 
A Working Group has been established to ensure efficient, effective and regular communications to address issues and identify opportunities that both parties can work on together, including: Stewardship and restoration objectives that ensure the land and resources are well managed (through activities such as watershed restoration activities and better tree planting efforts); Support for the prevention, control, and eradication of wildfires and invasive species; Increased education, training and mentoring opportunities for all parties; and Sub-contracting and employment opportunities for Huu-ay-aht citizens. By strengthening their relationship and continuing to work together, Huu-ay-aht and Mosaic will increase the economic viability and sustainability of the forestry sector in the Alberni region for the benefit of all future generations.

Sharing our feelings while living with the Coronavirus

By Dave Zryd

Sometimes, just sharing our feelings can make us feel nervous, vulnerable, angry, or confused.  Communicating what we’re feeling can be difficult. There may be a lot going on for you during this unusual time with the Coronavirus “bug” still floating around, unseen, yet still very dangerous. A lot of us slip into denial about the risk, socializing, shaking hands, and hugging, even though we may know someone, who knows someone, that recently died from catching this deadly, “flu-like” bug.

The threat is still there, and most of us are going to come through OK, because we are washing our hands and keeping our social distance with others. Even if we don’t get physically sick, something else may be going on that needs attention. How do we talk about what we are going through, personally?

As always, communication is the key – that releases the heavy feelings we carry. If we “clean as we go” our house will stay fresh. The same is true for our built-up feelings – sharing can help reduce our mental “heaviness” and take out the “garbage” that is piling up in the corner of our minds. 

A daily check-in can help. Sharing our feelings is something that comes easy for some of us, and others will do anything to avoid real sharing.  It is scary and unpredictable once you start opening up. The alternative is to clam-up and become isolated from others, even develop a fake “I’m fine” personal front.  People know when you are not OK – body language is pretty easy to read, and if you withhold your feelings all the time, you will get pressured to share. “Are you Ok?”

To keep a strong connection with our loved ones, we need to nurture intimacy on a deep level.  To really connect, we have to open up and share our feelings, keeping the circle strong in the family.

During the last few weeks and months under the Covid-19 virus threat, a lot of disturbing feelings are going to be coming up. One facilitator I know, Jane Middleton Moz, likes to say that, with feelings, you need to “name it to tame it”. That is, when we share our feelings, we get closer and care more about each other. “Connection is the cure” for keeping everyone strong and grounded as we face the next challenging time with more freedom but uncertain risks as we go out into the community.

So, what’s going on for you? I can guess some people are feeling anxious, overwhelmed, frustrated, sad, and even confused or angry. Life is so different from usual: What can we do safely, when, with who? Can I hug my grandmother now? Am I going back to school, work, fishing, or do I just stay home and be completely safe? Doctors and nurses are coming up with guidelines for us, and they seem to change daily. So, again, take a deep breath and remember “all will be well” in time.

Your job is to stay safe, be patient, and stay connected. We truly are all in the same canoe on this trip. Your canoe will stay steady and move ahead, with a check-in now and then, sharing feelings and connecting with each other. It’s OK to say you are worried, scared, or confused.  Naming the feelings will take the charge out of the situation. Emotionally opening up to friends lets off some pressure. It is great to feel the support that is there for you, when you do find the words to express what is going on inside. As you get more comfortable sharing, others will do the same, and you might be surprised at what you hear. Everyone of us is going through something that needs support now and then.

Dave Zryd has been an employee of the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council for 27 years, as a clinical counsellor (BCACC reg # 971), serving the communities in the southern region and occasionally in other regions for specialized counselling, men’s issues, and EMDR trauma therapy.

Prior to the NTC, Dave was at the old Kakawis Treatment Centre, before it moved to Port Alberni, where it is now known as Kackamin. While at Kakawis Dave learned the importance of Indigenous culture for successful treatment of personal and family problems, many of which were the result of residential school experiences.

Today Dave lives in Port Alberni and can be reached by phone at cell 250-720-5815 or the Quu Asa office, direct number 778-421-8091.  His email address is david.zryd@nuuchahnulth.org. He is available for Zoom video sessions and looks forward to meeting new clients and, of course, checking in with community members he has known for years.