A Symbolic Venue

The Kwanwatsi Big House at the We Wai Kum First Nation in Campbell River served as the perfect location for the formal signing of a groundbreaking agreement between North Island First Nations and Western Forest Products.

Chief Chris Roberts of We Wai Kum expressed his gratitude for the use of the house, highlighting that it was constructed using wood from their own territory.

The massive beams supporting the roof were made from their land, and twin cedar pillars carved into Totems adorned each end, showcasing the rich cultural heritage of the community.

A Momentous Occasion

The ceremony, attended by distinguished guests such as B.C. Premier David Eby, Minister of Forests Bruce Ralston, and Western Forest Products CEO Steven Hofer, marked a significant milestone for the Nations in the Na̲nwak̲olas Council.

The agreement allows these Nations, namely Tlowitsis, We Wai Kai, Wei Wai Kum, and K’ómoks, to acquire a 34% interest in a newly formed limited partnership with WFP for $35.9 million.

This partnership encompasses portions of WFP’s Mid Island operation, including 157,000 hectares of land in the territories of the Nations near Campbell River and Sayward. The partnership will also oversee an allowable annual cut of 904,540 cubic meters of timber.

A Paradigm Shift Towards Sustainability

Dallas Smith, president of Na̲nwak̲olas Council, emphasized the importance of celebrating and acknowledging moments like these as indigenous communities and various sectors work towards a paradigm shift for sustainability.

Smith stated that the agreement establishes a new path forward for future generations, far outweighing the years of effort invested in its development. With considerations for old growth deferrals, climate change, and biodiversity, the agreement aims to strike a balance between the economy, ecology, and the wellbeing of the community.

A Collaborative Approach to Land Management

Steven Hofer, CEO of Western Forest Products, highlighted the unique nature of the agreement, emphasizing that it is not Western dictating how the land base should be managed. Instead, it is a collaborative process through an Integrated Resource Management plan that looks ahead 150 to 200 years.

This forward-thinking approach sets a precedent for land management in the province, as it has never been done before.

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courtesy of campbellrivermirror.com

“Too many times we focus on the challenges that face us both as indigenous communities as sectors working within our territories as governments trying to manage and coordinate the efforts…. As we start to take on the magnanimous task of the paradigm shift that’s needed towards sustainability, days like today need to be celebrated and acknowledged.”

Dallas Smith, president of Na̲nwak̲olas Council

A Cause for Optimism and Celebration

Bruce Ralston, Minister of Forests, acknowledged the challenges faced in meeting the needs of all stakeholders but expressed optimism and celebration for the successful outcome. He described the agreement as a model for other parts of the province, other groups, and other sectors of the industry.

The event concluded with the exchange of gifts following Kwakwakaʼwakw protocol and the unveiling of the partnership’s name: “La-kwa sa muqw Forestry.”