Jun 19/98: Kitkatla-Forest industry joins Interfor



Vancouver Sun
June 19, 1998
Jim Beatty - Sun Legislature Bureau

[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.]

VICTORIA -- British Columbia's forestry industry intervened Thursday in a B.C. Supreme Court court case that threatens to devastate logging operations across the province. The case involves an attempt by the Kitkatla Indian band to stop International Forest Products Ltd. from clearcut logging in an old-growth forest just south of Prince Rupert.

A week ago, the court granted the Kitkatla an interim injunction -- stopping all cutting, blasting and road building -- and the band is seeking to make the injunction permanent. At the heart of the issue is whether the Kitkatla were properly consulted -- as provided for in the historic Delgamuukw decision by the Supreme Court of Canada -- before Interfor logging operations began this spring.

In the Delgamuukw case, the Supreme Court found that Canadian Indian bands that have not signed treaties are constitutionally entitled to consultation when governments are making decisions about the use of their traditional lands.

"There was a lack of consultation here and we insist that we be involved," Kitkatla Chief Matthew Hill said in an interview . "Our heritage and cultural values are at stake....It's about time our voices are heard."

As Interfor was defending itself Thursday, saying it made great efforts to inform the Kitkatla of its intentions, it was joined by the Council Of Forest Industries, which said the issue before the court is much broader than just the Kitkatla situation. COFI, the umbrella organization for the forest industry, will argue today that Interfor's consultation process meets the industry and government standard. Therefore, it said, forest company operations could be devastated if the court sides with the Kitkatla by extending the injunction. "It has great importance to our industry," COFI lawyer Chuck Willms said in an interview. "This is the same consultation process that is taking place across the province. If there's something wrong with this process it has broader implications."

The dispute centres around a pristine old-growth forest about 50 kilometres south of Prince Rupert. The 100-hectare stand of cedar, spruce, fir and hemlock is hundreds of years old.

Kitkatla lawyer Jack Woodward said the issue should be limited to the 100 hectares in question and whether the band was properly consulted -- not the wider issue of the economic impact on the forestry industry. "It's an intimidation argument and it's unfair to First Nations" that go to court to protect their specific rights, Woodward said in an interview. The Kitkatla band claims the property is culturally significant and may include some native artifacts or burial grounds.

But Interfor lawyer Bill McNaughton said those claims are unfounded. "There are no such items. They have never been found," McNaughton told the court, referring to archeological surveys of the land. The case continues.

Letters to the Vancouver Sun: sunletters@pacpress.southam.ca

Back to SIS