Huu-ay-aht First Nations Chief Councillor Robert Dennis Sr. addresses the HFN’s new agreement with Western Forest Products at a press conference in 2018 at Pacific Coast University in Port Alberni. SUSAN QUINN PHOTO

Huu-ay-aht First Nations Chief Councillor Robert Dennis Sr. addresses the HFN’s new agreement with Western Forest Products at a press conference in 2018 at Pacific Coast University in Port Alberni. SUSAN QUINN PHOTO

West Coast First Nation makes $22.4M investment into traditional territory tree farm

Huu-ay-aht First Nations acquire another portion of TFL 44 from Western Forest Products

Huu-ay-aht First Nations has closed a deal with Western Forest Products that will give the nation additional ownership of a tree farm licence located on Huu-ay-aht traditional territory.

Huumiis Ventures, a limited partnership owned by the Huu-ay-aht First Nations, announced on Tuesday, May 4 that it has acquired an “incremental” 28 percent ownership interest in TFL 44.

With this transaction, Huumiis now owns a 35 percent ownership interest in TFL 44, with Western Forest Products owning the remaining 65 percent.

Huu-ay-aht and WFP signed a reconciliation protocol in 2018, looking for opportunities to balance protection of the environment and growth of the economy while allowing Huu-ay-aht to have increased participation in TFL 44. After this protocol was signed, Huu-ay-aht formed a special investment body (Huumiis Ventures) and acquired a seven percent interest in TFL 44.

In March of 2020, Huumiis announced that it planned to take a majority interest (51 percent) in TFL 44, subject to approval from Huu-ay-aht citizens and the provincial government.

READ MORE: Huu-ay-aht First Nations, Western Forest Products strike deal for TFL 44

The deal on May 4 is another step towards this majority ownership.

“The finalization of this next step in the transaction is a historic milestone and positive step forward towards economic reconciliation,” said Huu-ay-aht Chief Councillor Robert J. Dennis Sr in a press release. “We established Huumiis only a few years ago and now, as a result of this transaction, we have a Huu-ay-aht business with a significant ownership interest in the largest business that operates in Huu-ay-aht territory. It’s exciting for me as the financial returns from this economic investment mean we can continue to provide the current programs and services to our people. And with that, I look forward to continuing our strong relationship with Huumiis, Western, the United Steelworkers, and building relationships with other area First Nations.”

“We are thrilled with the results of the hard work from all involved in putting this deal together,” added John Jack, a director of Huumiis’ general partner, Huumiis Ventures Corporation, and a Huu-ay-aht First Nations councillor. “We took our deal to the Huu-ay-aht citizens, they voted yes. This is a great day for Huu-ay-aht.”

The shared vision of Huumiis, Huu-ay-aht and Western includes a framework for opportunities for increased participation of area First Nations through tenure ownership, training and employment, business opportunities, sustained domestic manufacturing, integrated resource management planning, effective marketing and value-added product innovation.

“I’m thrilled to be celebrating the next phase of this very successful partnership today,” said Don Demens, Western’s president and CEO, in a press release. “I’m excited because I believe the partnership is going to create benefits for Huu-ay-aht citizens and our employees, as well as the whole region, and I believe this is an example of how business can participate in reconciliation. Our relationship with Huu-ay-aht supports both our interests, and that is the foundation of creating this long-lasting partnership that will provide benefits for all of us well into the future.”

“This combination of opportunities for participation of First Nations in TFL 44 LP goes above and beyond that of virtually any other forest company in B.C.,” added Dennis. “It also sets a standard for First Nation engagement which is in keeping with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”

The next stage, says Huu-ay-aht, is the acquisition of a further 16 percent ownership interest by Huumiis from Western, giving Huumiis a majority ownership interest with 51 percent.

This next stage is anticipated to close in the first quarter of 2023, subject to approval from the province and a vote by Huu-ay-aht citizens.

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