Kwakiutl First Nation halts operations at Western Forest Products' log sorting yard in Port McNeill, British Columbia, in peaceful protest over logging rights

LOS ANGELES , August 5, 2011 () – The Kwakiutl First Nation, from Fort Rupert near Port Hardy on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, brought operations at Western Forest Products' log sorting yard in Port McNeill to a halt on Wednesday, The Vancouver Sun reported on Aug. 3.

On Thursday, the Kwakiutl planned to block the ferry at Port McNeill dock and demonstrate outside the forests ministry building there as part of a two-day protest over logging plans on its traditional territory.

WFP spokesman Gary Ley said the company decided to shut down all activity at the dry land sort on Wednesday because of safety concerns. He said the protestors were orderly, left peacefully and took everything they brought with them.

Kwakiutl  Chief Coreen Child said about 100 people pitched tents in a peaceful protest, had lunch and blessed the ground. Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs vice-president Bob Chamberlin said lunch was offered to the police present, but they declined.

The First Nation staged the protests to highlight what it sees as the British Columbian government's misinterpretation of the Douglas Treaty. The Kwakiutl is also accusing the province of lack of consultation on logging plans on traditional territory, and failing to provide opportunities for the band to log on its traditional land, said Child.

In 2007, the province granted WFP permission to remove 14,139 ha. of privately-owned land from a tree farm license. Child said this was done without consultation or accommodating the Kwakiutl, and a lawsuit has since been launched against WFP and the province.

According to Child, the province claims that the Douglas Treaties eliminated aboriginal rights on traditional lands, but the Kwakiutl has not given up those rights.

The 14 Douglas Treaties on Vancouver Island date back to the mid-1800s when governor Sir James Douglas bought parcels of land. Chamberlin said a mistaken interpretation of the treaty was preventing the Kwakiutl from receiving benefits.

Ley said WFP was caught in the middle, noting that the First Nation's real dispute is with the provincial government. He added: "WFP has respected Kwakiutl wishes on Douglas Treaty lands for the last decade and it would be good to get problems ironed out."

Forests ministry spokeswoman Vivian Thomas said Kwakiutl First Nation is part of the Nanwakolas group of First Nations that signed an agreement with the province in 2009. She said the agreement includes a  consultation protocol on resource management.

The primary source of this article is The Vancouver Sun, Vancouver, on Aug. 3, 2011.

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