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Huu-ay-aht Announces Access Restrictions and Safety Measures to Protect Forestry Operations on Huu-ay-aht Ḥahuułi (Territory)

Huu-ay-aht First Nations will be implementing access restrictions and safety measures within Huu-ay-aht ḥahuułi (Territory), effective on Monday, May 10, 2021. The purpose is to ensure continued safe forestry operations within Huu-ay-aht lands.

This step is being taken in response to a forestry operations safety incident on Thursday, May 6, 2021 involving a Huu-ay-aht-owned forestry cutblock. Eye-witness accounts confirm a forestry protester drove through safety barriers into an active logging area, putting the safety of the driver and the forestry workers at risk. This is similar to recent incidents on the ḥahuułi of the Pacheedaht and Ditidaht First Nations, where individuals associated with environmental non-government groups (ENGOs) disrupted logging operations by putting safety at risk.

“Any protest activity that puts human life at risk is completely unacceptable. While we support the right to peaceful and legal protest, it must not disrupt safe forestry operations,” Huu-ay-aht Chief Councillor Robert J. Dennis Sr. said. “Equally, Huu-ay-aht First Nations strongly condemns the use of racist language, intimidation, or other acts of violence directed at protestors who are peacefully and legally protesting.”

“Protesters, forest workers, companies, other governments, or indigenous or non-indigenous individuals who do not conduct themselves in accordance with our Nation’s three sacred principles – ʔiisaak (Utmost Respect), ʔuuʔałuk (Taking Care of), and Hišuk ma c̕awak (Everything is Connected) – are not welcome in our ḥahuułi (Territory),” said Huu-ay-aht Tayii Ḥaw̓ił ƛiišin (Head Hereditary Chief Derek Peters).

Yesterday, respected conflict prevention and resolution specialist Dan Johnston was engaged by TFL 44 LP. His role is to prepare a report and recommendations on how to ensure continued safe forestry operations, while also ensuring individuals are able to exercise their right to peaceful and legal protest – all  in accordance with Huu-ay-aht’s three sacred principles.

ƛiišin and Chief Councillor Dennis stressed that the Nation is doing its part to maintain a respectful and safe community and workplace while Dan Johnston conducts this important work.

“We ask everyone – forest companies, forest workers, environmental groups, indigenous and non-indigenous protesters, the RCMP, the BC government, the USW, Worksafe BC, First Nations and their citizens and members – to do your part as well,” Chief Councillor Dennis concluded. Huu-ay-aht First Nations will provide further details regarding the access restrictions and safety measures it will be implementing within Huu-ay-aht ḥahuułi (Territory) on Monday, May 10, 2021. Huu-ay-aht will meet with Ditidaht and Pacheedaht First Nations and TFL 44 LP. Huu-ay-aht will also be meeting with the Provincial Government.

Western completes sale of incremental ownership interest in TFL 44 to Huumiis

Huumiis Ventures Limited Partnership (“Huumiis”), a limited partnership beneficially owned by the Huu-ay-aht First Nations (“Huu-ay-aht”), and Western Forest Products Inc. (TSX:WEF) (“Western”) announced today the completion of Huumiis’ acquisition of an incremental 28 per cent ownership interest in TFL 44 Limited Partnership (“TFL 44 LP”) and TFL 44 LP’s general partner, TFL 44 General Partner Inc. (“TFL 44 GP”) from Western, for $22.4 million. With the completion of this transaction, Huumiis now owns a 35 per cent ownership interest in TFL 44 LP and TFL 44 GP, with Western owning the remaining respective 65 per cent.

“When we started down this road with Western a few years ago, we did so with the words and guidance of our elders in mind,” said Tayii Ḥaw̓ił ƛiišin (Huu-ay-aht Hereditary Chief Derek Peters). “Our sacred principles of ʔiisaak (utmost respect), ʔuuʔałuk (taking care of), and Hišuk ma c̕awak (everything is one) continue to guide us as we focus on increasing our jurisdiction over our hạhuułi (traditional territory) and ensure the resources are managed sustainably to create wealth for our Nation, while also protecting those same resources for future generations. Working with Huu-ay-aht, Huumiis has preservered to ensure our values and vision are carried forward in TFL 44 LP. We are looking forward to Huumiis, as a wholly-owned Huu-ay-aht business, continuing on this path with Western.”

“The finalization of this next step in the transaction is a historic milestone and positive step forward towards economic reconciliation,” said Huu-ay-aht Chief Councillor Robert J. Dennis Sr. “We established Huumiis only a few years ago and now, as a result of this transaction, we have a Huu-ay-aht business with a significant ownership interest in the largest business that operates in Huu-ay-aht territory. It’s exciting for me as the financial returns from this economic investment mean we can continue to provide the current programs and services to our people. And with that, I look forward to continuing our strong relationship with Huumiis, Western, the USW, and building  relationships with other area First Nations.”

“I’m thrilled to be celebrating the next phase of this very successful partnership today,” said Don Demens, Western’s President and CEO. “I’m excited because I believe the partnership is going to create benefits for Huu-ay-aht citizens and our employees, as well as the whole region, and I believe this is an example of how business can participate in reconciliation. Our relationship with Huu-ay-aht supports both our interests, and that is the foundation of creating this long-lasting partnership that will provide benefits for all of us well into the future.”

“I’m incredibly proud of what we’ve accomplished together,” said Shannon Janzen, Western’s Vice President, Partnerships & Sustainability and Chief Forester. “I’m excited not only for Western and Huumiis, but also for our workforce, the USW, local communities, governments and First Nations as we celebrate another step towards a long-term vision for reconciliation and revitalization of the forest sector in the Alberni Valley.”

“We are thrilled with the results of the hard work from all involved in putting this deal together,” said John Jack, a director of Huumiis’ general partner, Huumiis Ventures Corporation. “The mandate for Huumiis is simple – to acquire interests in TFL 44 LP. As part of this investment, we ensured that Huu-ay-aht’s values and vision are top of mind in the process. Through formation of Huumiis and this successful acquisition, Huu-ay-aht’s influence is finally meaningfully realized in TFL 44 operations. We took our deal to the Huu-ay-aht citizens, they voted yes. This is a great day for Huu-ay-aht.”

The shared vision of Huumiis, Huu-ay-aht and Western includes a framework for opportunities for increased participation of area First Nations through tenure ownership, training and employment and business opportunities, sustained domestic manufacturing, integrated resource management planning, effective marketing and value-added product innovation, and participation of TFL 44 First Nations on an advisory committee to the TFL 44 GP Board. A vision for strong environmental stewardship is also shared, which will be enhanced by the collective implementation of the Huu-ay-aht-led Hišuk ma c̕awak Integrated Resource Management Plan (“IRMP”). 

“This combination of opportunities for participation of First Nations in TFL 44 LP goes above and beyond that of virtually any other forest company in BC. It also sets a standard for First Nation engagement which is in keeping with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples,” said Chief Councillor Robert J Dennis, Sr.

“Huumiis’ increased ownership stake in TFL 44 LP is something that our union fully supports as we believe it is in the best interests of Huu-ay-aht citizens and our members,” said Brian Butler, President United Steelworkers (“USW”) Local 1-1937. “This transaction led to the discussion and creation of the mutually beneficial agreement between the USW and Huu-ay-aht that will ensure there are more good paying jobs with benefits, pension and job security for all across TFL 44. On behalf of all USW members working on TFL 44, congratulations to Huumiis, Western and Huu-ay-aht for this positive next step and we look forward to continuing to work together.”

The closing of this stage of the transaction paves the way for the next stage – the acquisition of a further 16 per cent ownership interest in TFL 44 LP and TFL 44 GP by Huumiis from Western, which would bring Huumiis’ ownership interest to 51 per cent in both. This next stage is anticipated to close in the first quarter of 2023, subject to customary closing conditions, including approval by the BC Provincial Government and a further vote by Huu-ay-aht citizens at a People’s Assembly. In lieu of marking this historic closing in person due to COVID-19 restrictions, Huumiis, Huu-ay-aht, Western, USW, other area First Nations leaders and BC Provincial ministers are celebrating virtually. See the remarks and greetings in this video .       

Huu-ay-aht Citizens vote to approve purchase of 28% of TFL 44 LP with strong majority

In a Special People’s Assembly on April 10, 2021, Huu-ay-aht First Nations citizens showed overwhelming support for a proposal that will enable Huumiis Ventures LP (wholly owned by Huu-ay-aht First Nations) to purchase an additional 28% interest in TFL 44 LP.

“When we signed the Maa-nulth Treaty it gave our citizens a constitutional right to play an active role in the future of their Nation,” explained Chief Councillor Robert J. Dennis Sr. following the vote. “Today citizens practiced that right and show their support for this deal.”

Citizens were presented with a motion asking for support of a second investment of 28% in TFL 44 LP, bringing the total investment to 35% interest. The vote showed 82% of citizens voted in support of moving forward with the transaction, while 12% voted against. Citizens also voted on three other supporting motions that would move the investment forward with similar results.

“Throughout this process, we were led by our sacred principles of ʔiisaak (Utmost Respect), ʔuuʔałuk (Taking Care of), and Hišuk ma c̕awak (Everything is One),” said Tayii Ḥaw̓ił ƛiišin (Head Hereditary Chief Derek Peters). “We followed the guidance of our citizens and Ḥaw̓iiḥ Council, and we brought an opportunity to our citizens that we believe will honour our ḥahuułi and ensure it will support many generations to come. We look forward to carrying out the task of working with citizens, leadership, and partners.”

Huumiis currently owns 7% of TFL 44 LP, with Western Forest Products Inc. owning the other 93%. This step will increase that ownership to 35%, giving Huu-ay-aht much more say in what happens on their Traditional Territory. It also paves the way for the second stage of the transaction, acquisition of a further 16% interest in TFL 44 LP, to be considered in the first quarter of 2023. This stage would also be subject to a further vote of citizen at a People’s Assembly.

“Today, we moved forward with our Modern Mind, while honouring our Ancient Spirit, and we showed how resilient we are as a Nation,” Chief Dennis said. “This deal gives us more influence in what happens on our ḥahuułi and create opportunities for our citizens and our Nation, while focusing on being economically viable and environmentally sustainable.”

TFL 44 LP sets strong 2021 trajectory despite challenging past year

Tree Farm Licence 44 Limited Partnership (TFL 44 LP) announced today positive safety and financial results for fiscal 2020. TFL 44 LP is a partnership between Western Forest Products Inc. (Western) and Huumiis Ventures Limited Partnership (Huumiis). The 2020 financial and safety results were a remarkable achievement given TFL 44 LP only fully operated for seven months during fiscal 2020 and faced unprecedented challenges from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“When we formed this partnership in 2019 with Western, we did so with the intention of advancing our shared vision of forestry revitalization, reconciliation, and creating a brighter future for present and future generations,” said Tayii Ḥawił ƛiišin, Huu-ay-aht First Nations Head Hereditary Chief, Derek Peters, and TFL 44 LP Board Member. “In order to accomplish this, we have focused on employment and training, strengthening the relationship with USW and long-term resource management planning. Now one year in, we are pleased with the positive financial performance, and we are making great steps toward our broader goals.”

TFL 44 LP is committed to fostering a strong relationship with United Steelworkers Local 1-1937 (USW) and the local workforce. It is focused on creating opportunities for employees and supporting increased jobs and training for Huu-ay-aht citizens, their family members, and other local First Nations, as positions become available. Huumiis has recently hired a new full-time Employment and Training Manager to ensure the success of its employment and training efforts.

“In light of the many challenges we faced in 2020, the progress that has been made is encouraging,” said Dallyn Willis, Western Vice President, Finance, and TFL 44 LP Board Member. “Western congratulates Huu-ay-aht First Nations and USW on their recent agreement and looks forward to all parties’ continued collaboration to foster the economic revitalization of the Alberni Valley forest sector.”

In addition to their focus on jobs and training, TFL 44 LP and Western have been invited to participate in the Huu-ay-aht-led hišuk ma c̕awak Integrated Resource Management Plan (IRMP). The IRMP is a coordinated plan for forest and environmental management on the Ḥahuułi of the Huu-ay-aht ḥaw̓iiḥ (Huu-ay-aht traditional territory) that respects the present and future needs of the Nation. It considers the entire ecosystem including watersheds, salmon, and other aquatic life, wildlife, and ancient trees. The plan will be guided by the Nation’s three sacred principles: ʔiisaak (greater respect), ʔuuʔałuk (taking care of), and hišuk ma c̕awak (everything is one). It will consider ways to advance the already industry-leading biodiversity and old-forest management practices employed by Western and TFL 44 LP, including retention, silviculture systems and big tree protections. “The commitment to collaboration with Western and TFL 44 LP on the development and implementation of the IRMP is very promising, and we are excited about the future of this relationship,” said John Jack, Huumiis Chair. “As we expand our collective vision of reconciliation and revitalization of the forest sector, we will contribute to the long-term stability of the Alberni Valley for all.”

West Coast Trail re-opening to overnight visitors in June 2021 – Huu-ay-aht supports

Parks Canada announced on Friday that the West Coast Trail would re-open for the 2021 visitor season with measures in place to protect the health of remote communities, Indigenous Guardians, visitors, and Parks Canada employees. This decision was supported by Huu-ay-aht, Pacheedaht, and Ditidaht First Nations, after collaborating with Parks Canada.

“We are happy to welcome people back to the West Coast Trail this year. Lead by our sacred principles – ʔiisaak, ʔuuʔałuk and Hišuk ma c̕awak – our priority will continue to be the safety and health of our citizens and visitors,” explains Huu-ay-aht Tayii Ḥaw̓ił ƛiišin (Hereditary Chief Derek Peters). “We are happy to work closely with our Ḥaw̓iiḥ, Parks Canada, and the other Nations to use the lessons we learned in 2020 and apply them in a way that will allow people to enjoy our beautiful ḥahuułi this year.”

The 75-km West Coast Trail will be open to overnight visitors from June 4 to September 30 in 2021. Reservations will open on April 30 at 8am PDT. All three access points, including Bamfield (Pachena Trailhead), Port Renfrew (Gordon River Trailhead) and Nitinaht Village will be open.

Experienced hikers can book their adventure by visiting reservation.pc.gc.ca or by calling 1-877-RESERVE (1-877-737-3783). Advance reservations will be required for all hikers; no spaces will be offered on standby. At this time, the West Coast Trail is only available to Canadians.

Parks Canada and local First Nations are asking visitors to limit the risk of COVID-19 transmission by paying attention to local signs and community protocols, completing a self-assessment before travelling to the area, and following the guidelines of public health experts, including travel restrictions.

Hikers are also asked to learn in advance whether First Nations villages are welcoming visitors prior to arrival. 

Huu-ay-aht’s village of Anacla, adjacent to the Pachena trailhead, is currently closed to outside visitors. The Nation and the Huu-ay-aht Group of Businesses are in the process of determining when and how to safely open Pachena Bay Campground for the season and will announce details soon. Visitors are welcome to take advantage ofthe locally owned businesses and other services in nearby Bamfield.

Ditidaht First Nation is ready to welcome visitors to the Nitinaht area and asks that visitors show respect to community members and one another.  West Coast Trail Comfort Camping at Tsuquadah, Nitinaht Motel, and the Nitinaht Visitor Centre and Store will be open.  Nitinaht Windsurf Park and Caycuse Campsite will be welcoming visitors on May 21 with reservations opening on April 7 (www.nitinahtcampground.com). Reservations will be required as there will be no walk-ins permitted.

Pacheedaht First Nation is offering a range of services near the Gordon River Trailhead, including extended stay parking, river crossing transportation, oceanfront camping with hot showers and laundry, shopping at the San Juan Market, and mountaintop lodging at Soule Creek.

To learn more about preparing for the West Coast Trail, check out Parks Canada’s hiker preparation video. Reservations for Green Point Campground in the Long Beach Unit will launch on April 7. Details on overnight camping opportunities and possible reservation opportunities for the Broken Group Islands and Keeha Beach are yet to be determined as Parks Canada continues to work collaboratively with local First Nations and explore safe visitor experience options. Detailed information and future updates on overnight experiences in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve can be found online at pc.gc.ca/PacificRim.