Huu-ay-aht awarded $13.9 million in battle over timber rights

A Vancouver Island First Nation has been awarded $13.9 million in compensation after a tribunal found the federal government failed in its duty to the community relating to historical logging.

The specific-claims tribunal, which hears claims by First Nations against the federal government regarding past wrongs, found Canada had breached its duty to the Huu-ay-aht First Nation between 1948 and 1969.

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In 1938, Huu-ay-aht surrendered all salable timber on its largest reserve to the federal government, during a time of economic hardship. The federal government was to sell the timber on terms “most conducive to our welfare.”

Chief Coun. Robert Dennis said the federal government authorized logging activity without following proper procedure.

The First Nation, based in Anacla near Bamfield, was awarded lower stumpage fees than the province was collecting. And permits weren’t renewed annually, when they should have been, he said.

Beginning in 1948, chiefs submitted petitions asking the federal government to cancel the logging licences, but logging continued through 1969.

Dennis said the settlement is an important step in reconciliation between Canada and Huu-ay-aht.

“It’s very significant for us to have this long-standing grievance settled. I only wish that some of those people who signed that letter back in 1948 were alive today, but I believe all are gone now,” Dennis said.

The tribunal assessed the historical damages at 2016 value.

Dennis said the money will go toward priority areas identified in the band’s strategic plan including economic development, language and culture, natural resource development, community development and education and employment.

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