The Huu-ay-aht First Nation near Bamfield has received a $1.5-million legal award, the first ever issued by the Specific Claims Tribunal.

Kate Blomfield, lawyer for the 750-member Huu-ay-aht nation, said the tribunal ordered the federal government to pay the money in compensation for granting a timber licence on Huu-ay-aht reserve land.

Blomfield said the licence was first granted in 1943. But by 1948, prices for lumber were up and no logging had taken place.

The Huu-ay-aht chief asked the government for a new deal and was refused.

Logging, however, carried on from 1948 to 1969.

The tribunal ruled in 2014 that the timber licence granted to a corporate precursor of forest company MacMillan Bloedel, which was bought by Weyerhaeuser in 1999, was illegal.

“It is rewarding, after so many years, to have the tribunal settle on a partial payment amount,” Chief Robert J. Dennis Sr. said in a statement.

“This is the first ruling for the tribunal, and, hopefully, it shows that the system works.”

The tribunal must still rule this spring on the present-day value of compensation for the remainder of the Huu-ay-aht claim, the statement said.

The Specific Claims Tribunal was established by the federal government in 2008 to give First Nations a quicker way to resolve monetary claims made against the government than going to court.

The tribunal is an independent body comprising six full-time federal judges appointed from provincial superior courts across Canada.

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