The Council of the Haida Nation has won another court victory, to force resource companies to consult them before making decisions about land considered traditional Haida territory.
The Supreme Court of BC released its decision September 28, deciding that despite changes to the Forest Act, Weyerhaeuser cannot enter into an agreement to transfer its TFL to another party without first consulting the Haida.
“The ruling is basically in our favour,” said CHN president Guujaaw, “so that there’s no room for a transfer, the obligation and the duties stay with that licence.”
The issue is complicated, and relates to the transfer of TFL 39 to Weyerhaeuser from MacMillan-Bloedel. The BC Court of Appeal ruled in 2002 that the Crown and Weyerhaeuser owed the Haida a duty to consult them and to seek to work out an accommodation. Both the province and Weyerhaeuser appealed that decision to the Supreme Court of Canada, and a decision from that court is expected soon.
But the BC Appeal court also said that Weyerhaeuser and the Haida could apply to the BC Supreme Court for interim rulings while waiting for the decision from the higher court, and this is the decision made September 28.
It requires Weyerhaeuser to consult and to disclose to the Haida the identity of a proposed transferee and the terms of the proposed transfer. “In effect, this means that the province’s amendments to forestry legislation over the last two years do not have the effect of legislating away the rights of the Haida or Weyerhaeuser’s duty to consult and accommodate the Haida,” according to a statement from the CHN and its lawyer Cheryl Sharvit.
The court also confirmed that the Haida are entitled to all necessary information held by Weyerhaeuser, including inventory data, which should make it more difficult for the company to liquidate old-growth cedar, for example.
“This is a victory for the forests of Haida Gwaii, which have already been logged of old-growth forests, and a victory for the continuance of Haida culture and the well being of people who call this home,” said Guujaaw.
Weyerhaeuser’s Sarah Goodman suggested the ruling might be appealed.
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