HTG accelerates protest of TimberWest sale
The Hul’qumi’num Treaty Group has called on the B.C. Securities Commission to investigate the proposed sale of TimberWest land.
Chief negotiator Robert Morales made the announcement on Friday — the same day the HTG announced a slew of new supporters, such as Amnesty International, the Ancient Forest Alliance, and Ecotrust Canada.
“Our coalition continues to grow,” Morales said on the phone from Vancouver, where HTG held a press conference Friday morning. “We now have a total of 15 First Nations that are part of the coalition, so it’s building.”
That coalition started in April, when the HTG learned two Canadian pension funds plan to purchase TimberWest — and its 327,000 hectares of land — for $1 billion.
Some 113,208 hectares of that land are within the Hul’qumi’num First Nations’ traditional territories, and yet Morales pointed out local First Nations peoples were not consulted or accommodated in the talks.
“We have not had an opportunity to be informed as to what the future plans are if this land changes hands,” he said.
“We have no indication of what a new corporate agenda would look like — and the Hul’qumi’num people see no benefit.”
After the proposed sale was announced, the HTG subsequently filed a request for immediate assistance from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
It upped the ante last week with its appeal to the securities commission.
“We have asked the B.C. Securities Commission to investigate what we’re saying was a failure by TimberWest to disclose a material change,” Morales explained.
That material change, the HTG believes, is the group’s outstanding human rights complaint — which the HTG hopes will clear the way for private lands to be dealt with in their land claims — filed with the IACHR in 2009.
“So we’ve asked the B.C. Securities Commission to make a determination, and if they find in fact there is a material change and TimberWest failed to disclose it, that they make an order for TimberWest to disclose it, and cease all trading in TimberWest stocks until that occurs.”
A TimberWest spokesperson had not responded to interview requests by press time Tuesday, but in a previous statement the company said it made all potential buyers aware of the ongoing treaty processes regarding traditional territories that overlap with private land owned by TimberWest.
Morales, meanwhile, said the HTG has no plans to file for a legal injunction through the Canadian court system.
“The IACHR has already ruled domestic remedies are ineffective,” he reasoned.
Morales also offered a warning to corporate landholders in Hul’qumi’num territory.
“This is us serving notice on corporations that we intend to become active in this area,” he said.
The tradition started with the 1889 E&N land grant will continue no longer, Morales promised.
“There was no consultation, accommodation or benefit to the Hul’qumi’num people,” he said. “The land was simply, we say, illegally transferred to private ownership, and it set off a chain of events that continues today, where land passes from one corporation to the next with never any discussion with the Hul’qumi’num people,” he said.
“Resources are extracted from our territory, lands are sold, lands are developed — and we continue to be the poorest people in the area.”
This will no longer be tolerated, Morales said, and the HTG is fully prepared to push the issue onto the international stage.
“We may not be able to remedy the past,” he said, “but we certainly do not intend to have the past repeated.”