The federal government is appealing a decision by a special claims tribunal to award $13.8 million in compensation to a Vancouver Island First Nation over a historic logging dispute.
The Huu-ay-aht First Nation, based in Anacla near Bamfield, received notice of appeal on Thursday.
The specific-claims tribunal, which hears claims by First Nations against the federal government regarding past wrongs, found the federal government failed in its duty to the community relating to logging contracts between 1948 and 1969.
“This decision to appeal is outrageous,” said Huu-ay-aht First Nations Chief Coun. Robert Dennis. “Part of our reconciliation to this long-term dispute was to seek fair compensation. We trusted Canada’s judicial processes to achieve this, but we are extremely disappointed to hear this will be further prolonged.”
In 1938, Huu-ay-aht surrendered all salable timber on its largest reserve to the federal government, during a time of economic hardship. The federal government was to sell the timber on terms “most conducive to our welfare.”
The First Nation says the federal government authorized logging activity without following proper procedure and the community was awarded lower stumpage fees than the province was collecting.
The tribunal ruled that the federal government failed to consult the First Nation when it issued a logging licence to a company called BSW in 1942 with a special condition that allowed a 21-year term that could be renewed.
The decision to appeal flies in the face of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s commitment to reconciliation with Canada’s indigenous peoples, Dennis said.
“Canada through the Prime Minister, has been singing the tune of reconciliation,” Dennis said. “This isn’t reconciliation, this is ongoing confrontation.”
The money was earmarked for economic development, language and culture, natural resource development, community development and education and employment.
“It would help close the economic gap between ourselves and Canadian society,” Dennis said.