People who want to take resources like timber, fish and oil from the islands should first talk to the Council of the Haida Nation, says CHN lawyer Terri-Lynn Williams Davidson – or risk having to pay damages in the future.
Ms Williams Davidson and lawyer Louise Mandell spoke to a hall full of tenure holders last Thursday (Nov. 28) in Skidegate, explaining that recent court decisions mean big changes in the way business is going to be done on the Charlottes.
The BC Court of Appeal has held that Weyerhaeuser – and other third parties – have a duty to accommodate Haida interests, Ms Williams Davidson said. Last week’s meeting was held to put third parties like oil and gas companies, fishing lodges and logging companies on notice that the CHN has claimed the islands as Haida territory.
How this will affect the various businesses depends on what type of activities they are engaged in, Ms Williams-Davidson said. A big company like Weyerhaeuser, which has the exclusive right to harvest timber from one-quarter of the land base on the islands, will obviously be much more affected than a small business logger taking a small volume of timber.
However, even the smallest business should talk to the CHN before harvesting anything, she said.
“We don’t know if their activities could end up harming a culturally modified tree, for example,” she said.
She admitted this will mean a huge amount of work for the CHN, and said the CHN will be discussing this with the federal and provincial governments.
One of the loggers who attended the meeting is Jim Abbott, co-owner of the Abfam sawmill in Port Clements. He said he’s still not sure what terms like “consultation” and “accommodation” mean, but from now on, he will be phoning or writing the CHN before bidding on any timber advertised by the Ministry of Forests.
“That will be one call we make each time, before we bid on the sale,” Mr. Abbott said. If the CHN responds that it has concerns about the advertised timber, Abfam won’t be bidding on it.
He added that the CHN appears more concerned about big tenure holders like Weyerhaeuser, rather than small local businesses like Abfam which don’t use much wood anyway.
“We get very, very little timber on the islands,” he said. “Since 1994 we have not been able to get enough logs to run one shift.”
Weyerhaeuser general manager Ray Lorenzo, who also attended the meeting, said the CHN was simply alerting other businesses to court decisions that Weyerhaeuser is already familiar with. Since last year, Weyerhaeuser has already changed many practices to accommodate the CHN, he said.
“Right now, we go through a block by block consultation about what we’re going to log,” Mr. Lorenzo said, adding that it’s going well, considering it’s a new process. “I think everybody’s working towards a common goal, and I think we’ll get there.”
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