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Update on TFL44 LP transaction from Huu-ay-aht leadership

On behalf of Executive and Ḥaw̓iiḥ Council, please review the following bulletin to citizens. This offers an update on the TFL 44 LP Transaction.

Click here for the full bulletin to citizens.

In the coming weeks, Huu-ay-aht will offer more opportunities to learn the details. Please watch for updates and meeting dates. If you have any questions, please email: communications@huuayaht.org.

Huu-ay-aht First Nations and United Steelworkers, Local 1-1937 Commit to Advancing Reconciliation and Job Creation on TFL 44

Huu-ay-aht First Nations and United Steelworkers, Local 1-1937 announced today the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding to establish a process for the parties to work together to ensure the Tree Farm Licence 44 (TFL 44) undercut volume is allocated to Huu-ay-aht and to develop a job creation and training plan through the TFL 44 Woodlands Contractors that will contribute to economic revitalization of the Alberni Valley forest sector.

In pursuing the goals of this MOU, the parties will be guided by Huu-ay-aht’s three sacred principles: hišuk ma c̓awak (“everything is one”); ʔuuʔałuk (“taking care of”); and ʔiisaak (“utmost respect”) and a strong commitment to reconciliation and meeting the principles and standards of the United Nations’ Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).

“USW’s commitment to reconciliation and recognition of the Maa-nulth Treaty demonstrates a respect for our citizens, current Hereditary (“Ḥaw̓iiḥ”) and Elected Councils, and honours the generations that came before us,” said Tayii Ḥawił ƛiišin (Head Hereditary Chief Derek Peters). “Today’s announcement signals another step toward healing and creating a brighter future for present and future generations.”

This historic development between Huu-ay-aht and USW affirms both parties’ commitment to advance reconciliation with First Nations on TFL 44 and provide job security, training and other benefits for current and future USW members by:

  • Working together to seek the approval of the B.C. government for the allocation of the TFL 44 undercut volume to Huu-ay-aht;
  • Commitment to continue harvesting the undercut volume with a USW certified workforce;
  • Developing a long-term plan to create 50+ well-paid, long-term USW jobs on TFL 44 for Huu-ay-aht citizens and other First Nations citizens with territory within TFL 44;
  • Establishing a pilot project to place 10 Huu-ay-aht/TFL 44 First Nations citizens in TFL 44 USW jobs with TFL 44 Woodlands Contractors over the next 12 months; and
  • Developing a long-term conditional job creation and training plan for implementation when the TFL 44 undercut is awarded to Huu-ay-aht, including retirement incentives, workforce training and preferential hiring and other considerations.

“The signing of this MOU is a demonstration of a commitment that a stronger future can be achieved by working together to advance both of our interests in the forest sector,” said Chief Councillor Robert J. Dennis Sr. “It also acknowledges USW’s adherence to Huu-ay-aht values on the Ḥahuułi of the Huu-ay-aht Ḥaw̓iiḥ (Huu-ay-aht traditional territory), and we look forward to taking this reconciliation step, and further steps, toward full reconciliation as we work with the USW.”

“The Steelworkers’ commitment to represent and support First Nations members and their communities is part of our commitment to meeting the principles and standards of the United Nations’ Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples,” said Brian Butler, President, United Steelworkers, Local 1-1937. “Over time, USW members have been impacted by the loss of harvesting opportunities, and we are confident that as we continue to build our relationship with Huu-ay-aht, we will not only advance our members interests, we will expand our joint interests in the Alberni Valley forest sector.” The job creation and training plan will address the eligibility criteria and formula for any retirement incentives as well as arrangements for workforce training and preferential hiring.

Sheila ready to help with housing needs

Sheila Charles has always been an advocate for Huu-ay-aht citizens. As an elected councillor for two terms, she was instrumental in making the Social Services Project a reality and improving so many lives through this process. She will now turn her attention to the housing needs of her Nation.

Sheila joined Team Huu-ay-aht and takes over the responsibility for housing for the Nation.

“I’m excited about the challenge this position presents,” she says. “I look forward to helping get our citizens into healthy living arrangements – ones where they will feel happy and safe and find a sense of pride.”

Her position is new to the Huu-ay-aht administrative team, and it is still a work in progress. Sheila says this will be a rewarding job as she gets to work with the team to ensure the new housing position is a “made in Huu-ay-aht” model. She plans to consult with other organizations, like the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council, to see what she can learn from what they are doing in housing. For the most part, Huu-ay-aht will be creating a position that will help address the specific needs coming from the Nation’s community. Prior to this change, direction came from the Housing Oversight Board.

In her new role, Sheila will oversee all the Huu-ay-aht rental properties. She will also be a contact for citizens who need help with their current housing or assistance finding a new place to live. She also sees ongoing maintenance and upkeep of the rental units as an important part of her job.

“We want citizens to know they are supported,” Sheila says. “It is important that we offer them security as we would like to see more citizens move home.”

Sheila acknowledges she has a lot of work ahead of her and lots to learn along the way.

“Learning as I go along is very familiar from the days I spent on Executive Council,” she explains. “I’m excited for the challenge and can’t wait to see more citizens getting into housing and moving home.”

Sheila will also offer help with the application process and other housing needs. She wants to remind citizens that information is available on Huu-ay-aht’s website (https://huuayaht.org/housing/) if they need to apply for housing or have other questions. She wants to remind citizens that the deadline for to apply for housing is March 1 of every year, as outlined in the Social Housing Regulation. Citizens can also email her directly at Sheila.c@huuayaht.org or call 250-731-5676.

Huu-ay-aht among the first to get vaccinated

The current pandemic is still a long way from over, but Huu-ay-aht First Nations is making progress in its fight against the virus.

In January, the Huu-ay-aht found out residents of Anacla would be among the first recipients of the Moderna vaccine. Within days of receiving the news, the first 70 vaccinations were administered in Anacla. That number has since increased to 85, and every member of the community has been vaccinated against COVID-19.

Chief Councillor Robert J. Dennis Sr encouraged residents of Huu-ay-aht’s remote village to get vaccinated to help protect the elders and people who could not get the vaccine.

“We want to lead by example,” he told the Hashilthsa. “If there’s something that we can do to stop the spread, we’re willing to be front and centre to ensure that it gets done.”

The chief also sees the vaccinations as a positive step and hopes that it will mean citizens will be able to gather again, and even host potlatches.

“That’s one of the big things people are missing,” he said. “Being able to get together with family, share a good, big meal and [enjoy] songs and dances. I’m extremely excited about that happening again.”

Although COVID-19 numbers in the province have leveled out, the numbers for First Nations communities are not looking promising.

As of the most recent update from the First Nations Health Authority on January 15, B.C had 2,761 cases recorded in First Nations people.  Among these, there were 32 deaths related to COVID-19. As of this date, there are 416 active cases.

When you examine the demographics of the people infected in this group, 72% are under the age of 50. The majority, 54.7% fall between 20-49 years of age.

The statistics also indicate that First Nations people are becoming infected at a rate greater than the provincial average. The rate of positive cases was 1,700 per 100,000 people among First Nations versus 1,157 per 100,000 people in BC.

The good news is that First Nations communities, especially those in remote areas, are a priority in the new provincial vaccination plan. As of the end of the FNHA reporting period, 75,914 people in B.C. have received a COVID-19 vaccine. Here is the schedule for this year’s immunization plan. For more details, you can go to: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/safety/emergency-preparedness-response-recovery/covid-19-provincial-support/vaccines

Family of Marcia Thomas hopes her death will remind people to stay safe at home

Marcia Thomas was on a good path this year. She was almost three years sober and was making amends with her family after years of struggles. She was living beside her brother, staying safe and healthy, and finally starting to smile more.

Then one night in late September she made a mistake in judgement that she would pay for with her life. Marcia decided to go visit some old friends who were not in her COVID bubble. She thought it was safe because they were her friends and none of them had the virus. Within a few days she was in hospital, and shortly after on life support. Marcia lost her battle with COVID-19 on November 25, and her family wants to share her story in hope that it will save lives.

“I just keep expecting her to come to the window next door to say good morning,” explains Marcia’s brother Jackson Dennis. “It’s hard to believe she’s gone.”

Jackson said losing his sister to COVID-19 has been hard on the whole family. Not only did it happen very fast, but they were not given an opportunity to say goodbye. Like so many fatal COVID cases once Marcia was hospitalized family could no longer visit her. Now that she has passed, they cannot have a service or gather to support each other because of the restrictions that are in place. Jackson said that makes it even worse.

“It’s the natural next step to say goodbye,” he explained. “This virus has taken that from us.”

Jackson said his sister was careful when it came to COVID restrictions, but she did let her guard down. She decided to go over to the apartment building where she used to live to visit old friends. She had been stopped drinking for almost three years, but that night she decided to go have a few drinks with her friends. The building where they lived did not have any COVID restrictions in place. People were free to come and go as they liked, and visitors were not restricted or asked to wear a mask.

Jackson blames a lack of protocol at the building for his sister’s exposure. He said more needs to be done to keep people safe. He also admits that everyone must be responsible for their own actions as well. He said the province is locking things down for a reason, and it’s time people started listening.

“It’s not in our power to change or bend the rules,” Jackson said. “We all have to do our part. This is serious.”

Even though none of Marcia’s friends from that night had COVID symptoms, they still passed the virus on to her. Marcia’s daughter Linnea Bowes said part of what makes this virus challenging is that you sometimes do not see it coming.

“My mum worked hard to stay safe, but here we are, mourning a huge loss,” she said. Linnea said for years she and her mother have struggled with their relationship. Alcohol got in the way and for much of her life Linnea had to protect herself by distancing from her mother. It was only in the last little bit that they managed to repair that relationship. Unfortunately, COVID has taken any hope she had of letting her mother get to know her children.

Linnea said her mother had underlying health issues that meant she was not strong enough to fight the virus. She said for that reason once she contracted the disease everything happened fast.

“We couldn’t visit her and could only do video chatting for a little while,” she said. “The last time we talked to her she was in the ICU, and then she was gone.”

Jackson said if he could give people one piece of advice it would be to not take chances.

“Nothing is worth the risk you are taking if you don’t follow the recommendations,” he said. “My sister just wanted to go see her friends, but it just wasn’t worth it.”

He wants people to see what his family is going through and learn from their loss. He wants people to stay home, only socialize with people in their own household, and wear a mask.

“This virus isn’t a joke, and we have to take it seriously,” he said.

Huu-ay-aht First Nations has had several citizens contract the disease. Fortunately, the Nation has lost only one person to COVID, but Chief Councillor Robert J. Dennis Sr. said that is one too many.

“We need our citizens to take this seriously,” he said. “My family has lost someone due to this virus, and I don’t want another family to suffer the same loss.”

He asks people to follow the restrictions. He also said it is especially important that people stay home and follow the non-essential travel ban. He said at this time visitors are not welcome in Anacla. With the holidays just around the corner, he admits this will be difficult. He wants citizens to stay in their own community and only have contact with the people in their household.

“We hear a lot about what we can do to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but in order to make a difference, everyone has to do their part,” he said. “Our Nation has lost one too many people to this virus. I pray we don’t lose anymore.”

British Columbia currently has the following restrictions in place related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • No social gatherings at your residence beyond your household
  • No social gatherings of any size in public places
  • Your core bubble should consist of only the people in your household. If you live alone, you must keep your bubble to one or two people
  • Masks are mandatory in all public spaces
  • No adult indoor or outdoor sports permitted, youth sports must follow restrictions in place, including no travel
  • All non-essential travel is to be avoided – essential travel includes regular travel for work within your region and travel for things like medical appointments
  • People should also clean your hands regularly, avoid touching your face, and keep a safe distance from others