Jul 1/98: Special hearing for Kitkatla appeal


Canadian Press
July 1, 1998
Ian Bailey

[S.I.S.I.S. note: The following mainstream news article may contain biased or distorted information and may be missing pertinent facts and/or context. It is provided for reference only.]

VANCOUVER (CP) - A northern B.C. Indian band has been granted a special hearing Friday in a last-ditch bid to block efforts by forest giant International Forest Products to log its traditional territory. Representatives of the Kitkatla First Nation will appear before a three-judge panel of the B.C. Court of Appeal.

The Kitkatla sought Fridays hearing "on an urgent basis," band lawyer Jack Woodward said in a statement.

They are seeking an injunction to block Interfors logging in old-growth forest in an area around Kumealeon Lake, south of Prince Rupert.

Friday's hearing is the latest step in a legal fight thats raged since earlier this month over access to an old-growth area of about 95 hectares south of Prince Rupert that is thick with hemlock, balsam, spruce and cedar.

But as legal motions proceed in a Vancouver courtroom, Interfor workers will be extracting logs and pulp from an area they have logged for 15 years.

"We will proceed on Friday morning and see what happens," Fred Lowenberger, an Interfor forestry vice president, said in Vancouver. He described the appeal as routine.

"We are working there now. We have been working there for a long time. We intend to keep working there."

There are 1,400 members of the Kitkatla band. Of that, about 500 live on Dolphin Island off the B.C. coast. But the dispute is focused on territory around Kumealon Lake, which is on the mainland south of Prince Rupert.

On June 25, the Kitkatla were rebuffed in their effort to secure an injunction. But as she passed down her decision, Madam Justice Mary Southin observed that, in light of the Delgamuukw decision, it may be necessary for a panel of the court to rule on the issue.

The Kitkatla are one of eight B.C. bands that have launched court actions to stop activities in their territories, using last Decembers Delgamuukw ruling from the Supreme Court of Canada. That ruling said aboriginal groups that haven't signed treaties are constitutionally entitled to consultation when governments are making decisions about the use of their traditional lands.

Interfor has struck a deal with another area band, but not the Kitkatla because they were not aware of their interest in the area until February.

"It was a bit of a curveball," Lowenberger said of the band's interest.

He said the Delgamuukw decision has created a "renewed interest" in areas of B.C. the industry assumed it had proper clearance to access.

"I think you will see it happen throughout B.C."

Interfor has scheduled a meeting with Kitkatla officials next week to discuss the issue, but Lowenberger has his doubts about its impact.

"I am confident we will talk, but I don't think we will resolve anything," he said. "I think this will end in a number of court decisions."

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