Skip to content

Na̲nwak̲olas Council, Western Forest Products sign historic agreement

Agreement first-of-its-kind partnership between First Nations and forestry industry
Forests Minister Bruce Ralston, Na̲nwak̲olas Council president Dallas Smith, and WFP CEO Steven Hofer speak after the event. Photo by Marc Kitteringham/Campbell River Mirror

The Kwanwatsi Big House at the We Wai Kum First Nation in Campbell River was the ideal place to formally sign a historic agreement between North Island First Nations and Western Forest Products.

“This house was built with wood from our territory,” said We Wai Kum Chief Chris Roberts, gesturing up at the massive beams holding up the roof. They were held up by twin cedar pillars on each end carved into Totems at least five feet in diameter. “We are very fortunate to have had that to have this house in our community with wood that is ours from our territory … we went and picked our wood from our land and our territory. It was brought here and milled that’s how this house was built.”

Roberts was the first to speak during the ceremony, which included Dallas Smith as MC, B.C. Premier David Eby, Minister of Forests Bruce Ralston and Western Forest Products CEO Steven Hofer. The agreement allows the Nations in the Na̲nwak̲olas Council (Tlowitsis, We Wai Kai, Wei Wai Kum and K’ómoks) to acquire a 34 per cent interest from WFP in a newly formed limited partnership for $35.9 million. The partnership will consist of portions of WFP’s Mid Island operation, including 157,000 hectares in the territories of the Nations near Campbell River and Sayward. It will also manage an allowable annual cut of 904,540 cubic metres of timber.

“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,” said Dallas Smith, president of Na̲nwak̲olas Council. “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.”

“The agreement means we’ve actually established a new path forward for years,” Smith said during an interview after the ceremony. “The years of work that we’ve put into this is small compared to the dividends and opportunities that it’s going to bring to our future generations.”

The agreement was made with things like old growth deferrals, climate change and biodiversity in mind.

“We’re going to continue to adjust accordingly to make sure that there’s a balance between the economy, the ecology, and the human wellbeing of our community,” Smith said.

“It’s really a new approach to how the land base is going to be managed,” said Hofer. “It’s not Western saying to the Nations that this is how it’s going to be managed … it’s a collaborative process through an Integrated Resource management plan that looks at … this land base for the next 150 to 200 years. That has never been done before in this province.”

Ralston said that while the process has been challenging to make sure all the stakeholder needs are met, but “it is possible, it’s a cause for optimism, it’s a cause for celebration and is a model for other parts of the province, other groups and other parts of the industry.”

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

RELATED: Eby talks wildfires, forestry and how Indigenous deal can be a B.C. template

First Nation finfish alliance releases review of pro-salmon-farming science

Recipients of gifts, including Premier David Eby, took part in a traditional dance as the ceremony concluded. Photo by Marc Kitteringham/Campbell River Mirror
Premier David Eby spoke on behalf of the province during the event. Photo by Marc Kitteringham/Campbell River Mirror
Signatories from the four member Nations and Western Forest Products sign the agreement. Photo by Marc Kitteringham/Campbell River Mirror

Marc Kitteringham

About the Author: Marc Kitteringham

I joined Campbell River Mirror in early 2020, writing about the environment, housing, local government and more.
Read more