Huu-ay-aht are ‘disappointed’ by decision to appeal

The Huu-ay-aht First Nations expressed their disappointment to learn that the Canadian government has decided to appeal a Tribunal decision.

Huu-ay-aht First Nations are “extremely disappointed” to learn that the Canadian government has decided to appeal the Specific Claims Tribunal decision awarding more than $13.8 million in compensation to Huu-ay-aht First Nations for breaches of duty Canada committed between 1948 and 1969.

The Nations believe a judicial review is “unfair and prolonging this clear decision in favour of Huu-ay-aht is a waste of taxpayers’ money.”

“This decision to appeal is outrageous,” said Huu-ay-aht First Nations Chief Councillor Robert J. Dennis Sr. “Part of our reconciliation to this long-term dispute was to seek fair compensation. We trusted Canada’s judicial processes to achieve this, but we are extremely disappointed to hear this will be further prolonged. It is unfair to our Nation.”

Huu-ay-aht filed a claim with the Tribunal in 2011 about logging that took place on former Numukamis IR1 between 1948 and 1969. Huu-ay-aht chiefs petitioned Canada at the time of the logging operations, asserting that the licence should be cancelled, to no avail.

In 2014, the Tribunal found that Canada had entered into an unlawful deal and had breached its fiduciary obligations. The December 2016 Tribunal decision found that the Huu-ay-aht community had suffered significant losses and set the compensation owing.

Dennis points out Canada’s decision to appeal runs contrary to the Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s statement that, “No relationship is more important to me and to Canada than the one with Indigenous Peoples. It is time for a renewed, nation-to-nation relationship with Indigenous Peoples, based on recognition of rights, respect, co-operation, and partnership.”

Huu-ay-aht’s legal counsel, Kate Blomfield of Ratcliff & Company, expressed concern with the legal position put forward by Canada throughout the proceedings and on appeal.

“Canada’s position throughout this process has been that Huu-ay-aht should receive less compensation because the community was poor and could not afford to save and invest much of the funds that it was owed.

The Tribunal rejected Canada’s position as ‘patently unfair,’ but Canada is again pursuing this argument.”

“It is extremely frustrating that Canada is unwilling to accept the Tribunal’s decision and reconcile a 68-year dispute“, Dennis adds. “Canada’s decision to appeal flies in the face of the reconciliation that our community is seeking so that Huu-ay-aht can continue our focus on developing a strong economy for our citizens.”

The Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council (NTC) said in a recent press statement that they are also  “greatly disappointed” in this decision.

The NTC agrees with the Huu-ay-aht First Nation that a judicial review is unfair, and calls upon Minister Wilson-Raybould, Attorney General of Canada, to do better and follow the direction of the prime minister.

“Canada should be held accountable for failing to uphold its responsibility to the Huu-ay-aht First Nation,” the press statement reads.

“This is yet another poor move for the federal government in a time of reconciliation.”