(Black Press file photo)

(Black Press file photo)

Hospitalization of hereditary chief puts Gold River protest against logging company on hold

Mowachaht/Muchalaht say road use dispute with Western Forest Products not a priority until recovery

Hospitalization of a Mowachaht/Muchalaht First Nation (MMFN) hereditary chief has put an ongoing protest against Western Forest Products on hold.

In a statement to the Mirror this morning, MMFN lands manager Dorothy Hunt said that one of the hereditary chiefs — whose name and reasons for hospitalization she did not reveal — was admitted to the intensive care unit last night.

“Our focus is on the positive recovery of our chief and WFP is not our focus,” said Hunt.

MMFN were in the process of implementing road access restrictions for the logging company on three routes frequently used by WFP for transporting product to their dry land sort and shipping facility in Gold River.

The restrictions were tied to an ongoing dispute over the company using part of Highway 28 that passed through Ahaminaquus Indian Reserve Number 12 (IR 12) without a road use agreement. MMFN is asking to be compensated by WFP for what they consider to be trespassing through their territory.

While negotiation is still underway with WFP and the provincial Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, MMFN was not happy with the compensation the company offered. While MMFN is asking to be compensated for use dating back to 2005, WFP came back with an offer of two years compensation.

WFP spokesperson Babita Khunkhun said that to respect the Mowachaht/Muchalaht First Nation’s recent request that commercial activity not take place on the highway, WFP temporarily moved hauling and sorting operations elsewhere for the time being.

“Our goal is to continue to work in good faith to reach a fair resolution,” said Khunkhun.

The provincial ministry is aware of the “issue” between MMFN and WFP (WFP), and “encourages open dialogue” between the two parties to find a resolution.

“The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure has been engaging in discussions with the MMFN around IR12 and will continue to move forward with these conversations,” said spokesperson Danielle Pope in an email statement.

MMFN’s decision to restrict road access to the logging company received support from Indigenous leaders and environmentalists across B.C. who expressed solidarity and condemned the actions of WFP.

RELATED: Vancouver Island First Nation blocks highway access to logging trucks in Gold River

RELATED: Kwakwaka’wakw hereditary chiefs stand with Gold River-area First Nation in road use battle with logging company

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