The Tlowitsis, We Wai Kai, Wei Wai Kum and K’ómoks First Nations (the “Nations,” all member First Nations of the Nanwakolas Council), and Western Forest Products Inc. have reached an agreement for the Nations to acquire a 34 per cent interest from Western in a newly formed limited partnership for $35.9 million.
The Province of British Columbia helped to facilitate the partnership through Incremental Treaty Agreements with the Nations, all of whom are in Stage 5 of the British Columbia Treaty Process.
The formation of the partnership and acquisition by the Nations is subject to various closing conditions, including subdivision and tenure transfer approvals from the British Columbia Ministry of Forests.
Western and the Nations are working towards closing the acquisition in the first quarter of 2024.
The partnership will consist of certain assets and liabilities of Western’s Mid Island Forest Operation, including Block 2 of Tree Farm Licence 39. The operations of the new partnership will cover approximately 157,000 hectares of forest land in the traditional territories of the Nations near the communities of Campbell River and Sayward on eastern Vancouver Island. The partnership will manage an allowable annual cut of 904,540 cubic metres of timber and includes a long-term fibre agreement to support Western’s British Columbia coastal manufacturing operations.
Tlowitsis, We Wai Kai, Wei Wai Kum, and K’ómoks, who share significant areas of their respective territories, have been stewards of their forests for millennia. Nanwakolas Council assisted the four Nations in concluding the Agreement.
“This is a good day for everyone on Vancouver Island and the central coast,” says Nanwakolas Council President Dallas Smith. “For far too long, the very people who are the reason there were healthy, abundant forests here prior to colonization were excluded from participation in their continued sustainable management and any ability to benefit from them. Today we celebrate a significant step forward on the pathway to sustainable, effective resource management of our forests for the benefit of future generations. I applaud the Nations for taking this step. I acknowledge Western for stepping up into the Partnership and thank BC for helping make this happen.”
“Negotiations by K’ómoks towards the acquisition of an economically viable forestry operation began in 2021,” says K’ómoks Chief Ken Price, who is a registered professional forester.
“Historically, our people have always been involved in the forestry industry,” says Chief Price. "This forestry partnership agreement reflects not only a significant and meaningful incremental step forwards in our vision for economic wellbeing as a Nation, but our vision for a K’ómoks Treaty with the provincial and federal governments. K’ómoks would like to acknowledge Nanwakolas Council for its support of the Nations during the negotiations process, and our partners Tlowitsis, We Wai Kai, and Wei Wai Kum. As First Nations, we all look forward to taking our rightful place in forestry ownership and management in our territories." The partnership achieves one of the “Winning Conditions” of reaching a K’ómoks Treaty and K’ómoks has put significant resources into the work that has led up to this point. “We thank Western for their work to make the partnership happen, and the support for our negotiations over the years from the Government of Canada and from the provincial government."
"For Tlowitsis First Nation, this agreement represents a new way forward that is deeply meaningful,” says Tlowitsis Chief John Smith. “The opportunity to be on the ground working on our territories is huge - to provide jobs for our young people, revenue to support our Nation, and simply a better way of doing business together, is priceless."
“We Wai Kai is making significant investments in forestry, including the development and growth of our logging company, Way Key,” says We Wai Kai Chief Ronnie Chickite. “We appreciate the recognition by Western and British Columbia that we are an integral partner in the forest industry in our territory. This agreement, and the partnership it creates, is an important step forward for our Nation in participating meaningfully in the forest economy and taking back governance over our lands and resources.”