Annual General Meeting
Kelowna August 21 & 22, 1999
Support for Lyackson First Nation and the Fight
to Protect Aboriginal Rights and Cultural Heritage
Political Action Needed
The air inside the Ki-Low-Na friendship centre was politically electric. At the recent annual general assembly of the United Native Nations, members empowered their leaders to 'fight the good fight' on behalf of all their aboriginal brothers and sisters.
One resolution demanded the UNN leadership become more politically focused. Another called for political activism and full support for direct action campaigns by indigenous peoples.
Picking up on the theme, another resolution called on aboriginal people everywhere to demand the governments of British Columbia and Canada halt the proposed sale of MacMillan Bloedel to Weyerhauser. MacBlo is Canada's biggest forest eating company, while Weyerhauser can brag it is the world's largest. In 1998, sales were $10.8 billion.
The UNN's support was given wholeheartedly when delegates heard the plight of the Lyackson people on Vancouver Island who have lost most of their traditional lands and resources to MacBlo logging operations. Millions of dollars have flowed into the company's coffers. Tom Stephens, MacBlo's CEO who masterminded the sale to Weyerhauser earns a million dollars a year, and stands to personally make an additional ten million dollars if the sale goes through. A drop in the bucket I guess, considering the sale price of $3.59 billion. The Lyackson First Nation of course has not been fortunate enough to receive such benefits from the exploitation of its traditional lands and resources.
In addition, the Lyackson have been unsuccesful in getting the forestry giant to accept any responsibility for the descreation of sacred sites on Valdes Island. Chief Rick Thomas and his community were devastated when they discovered several years ago that a MacMillan Bloedel logging road had been bulldozed through the site of a sacred burial cave. Chief Thomas says Lyackson ancestral remains were left scattered. The community was shocked by the desecration and the company's silence over the matter.
MacMillan Bloedel officials deny they did anything wrong, there was no descreation, and besides the Indian Band said it was okay. However, MacMillan Bloedel is unable to provide any documentation that there was any formal negotiation or consultation process with the First Nation to obtain permission to bulldoze near the sacred sites. Chief Thomas says they talked a little bit about it, but denies there was any process for approval. MacMillan Bloedel has not produced any evidence of any formal written approval from the Lyackson First Nation.
To make matters worse --- as if they could be worse --- MacMillan Bloedel's own research suggested it wasn't a good place to build the logging road because of the known sacred and cultural sites of the First Nation. The road was built. Now MacMillan Bloedel can walk away from it all through the sale to Weyerhauser. The UNN resolution recognizes the power of the BC and federal governments to intervene. It wants the sale halted until aboriginal people receive guarantees that their interests will be addressed.
Before the deal gets the green light, it requires the approval of MacBlo shareholders and Canadian and American regulatory authorities. The BC public will be able to have a say on the controversial sale of MacMillan Bloedel to Weyerhauser at a series of meetings, including five on Vancouver Island. Is this sale in the best interests of British Columbians? First Nations? Nine public meetings addressing the sale will be held in September. Meetings on Vancouver Island will be held in Victoria on September 8th, in Nanaimo on September 9th, in Port Alberni September 10th, in Port McNeil September 11th and in Campbell River September 13th.
The public may present written or oral presentations or both. The deadline for written submissions is September 24th at noon. Submissions should be sent to David Perry, care of the Vancouver Forest Region, 2100 Labieux Road, Nanaimo, B,C, V9T 6E9. For more information call (250) 751-7037.
Lyackson First Nation's Fight to