COURTENAY—The Nanwakolas Council of First Nations and the Coast Forest Products Association signed a landmark Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) Monday in a move both parties said will further strengthen their longstanding collaborative partnership.
The MOU is aimed to increase participation in coastal forestry by Nanwakolas Council’s seven member Nations, as well as to strengthen security of tenure and fibre supply for the industry. The parties call Monday’s signing a significant milestone in further defining the partnership over the next three years.
“We are pleased to be signing this agreement with Coast Forest and its member companies,” said Dallas Smith, president of Nanwakolas Council. “Our Nations have been working collaboratively with the forest industry at both strategic and political levels for some time now, not only to build much-needed certainty on the land base, but also to help ensure that our communities are able to share in the benefits and opportunities that the industry brings.”
The Nanwakolas Council is a joint initiative among a consortium of Kwakwaka’wakw Nations, include the Gwa’sala-’Nakwaxda’xw, whose claimed traditional territories encompass a substantial swath of the North Vancouver Island and B.C. Coastal Mainland region.
The MOU outlines several key deliverables that both the Council and Coast Forest will address in the coming months. This includes working with the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations (FLNRO) and the Ministry of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation (MARR) to secure additional forest tenure and increase revenue sharing agreements so that Nanwakolas Council member Nations receive increased forest revenue, jobs and direct participation in forest planning and operations.
“Coast Forest and its member companies rely on security of tenure and fibre supply in order to operate and provide livelihoods to more than 38,000 people throughout the province,” says Rick Jeffery, President and CEO of Coast Forest Products Association. “The signing the MOU today is significant. Not only will it align the interests of Nanwakolas and Coast Forest members to deliver the benefits of developing a sustainable, renewable forest resource, but it is symbolic of the years that industry and First Nations have worked together and of the future we are now forging together.”
The Nanwakolas and Coast Forest intend to present the Province of British Columbia with options that will provide more jobs, revenue, capacity building, shared decision-making, and improved resource management. Following this, a final, definitive agreement will be made with the intent that all aspects of the agreement will be implemented within one to two years.
“This relationship has evolved from adversarial to one of respect and that shares mutual priorities – we have captured this in the MOU,” said Smith. “We will continue to work together to help advise the province on the development of sustainable but economically viable forest policy that will continue to see this resource help create jobs and contribute to the economy for generations to come.”