Forestry companies say they're at risk because of Wolastoqey title claim to more than half N.B.
Some of the New Brunswick's largest forestry companies say their business operations are at risk as a result of a title claim by the Wolastoqey Nation for about 60 per cent of land in the province.
Three companies — and several subsidiaries — want a specific document removed from the claim, and they've recently filed legal motions asking the Court of King's Bench to do so.
They say allowing "certificates of pending litigation" — which warn others the land is part of an ongoing legal dispute — to be registered "is likely to disrupt and undermine the operations" of their companies, according to the motions, copies of which were obtained by CBC.
The companies are part of a long list of defendants that includes some of the province's largest entities, including the Province of New Brunswick, the Government of Canada, power companies, rail lines and recreational companies.
The Wolastoqey Nation initially filed the land title claim in 2020 for more than five million hectares, which the chiefs identify as Wolastoqey traditional lands.
In 2021, they amended the claim to specifically name some of the province's largest companies, including forestry companies J.D. Irving Ltd., Acadian Timber and H.J. Crabbe & Sons.
The Wolastoqey Nation in New Brunswick represents the Matawaskiye (Madawaska), Wotstak (Woodstock), Neqotkuk (Tobique), Bilijk (Kingsclear), Sitansisk (St. Mary's) and Welamuktok (Oromocto) First Nations, located along the St. John River, also known as the Wolastoq.
Three separate motions were recently filed with the Court of King's Bench by H.J. Crabbe & Sons, Acadian Timber, and J.D. Irving — plus several subsidiary companies.
According to the motions, the forestry companies want the certificates removed from the claim because they are "incompatible" and inconsistent" with Aboriginal title.
In its motion, H.J. Crabbe & Sons argues that certificates of pending litigation are akin to an "injunction" on the land they own and prevent the company from selling land "and financing its business, and threatening the viability of the business operations."
The other two companies make similar claims in their own motions.
No comment from companies
In an emailed statement, Renée Pelletier, a lawyer representing the Wolastoqey Nation, said, "We intend to fight these motions, but we won't be commenting further on the matter as it is currently before the courts."
So far, no date has been set to hear the motions.
Pelletier said the Wolastoqey Nation has claimed certificates of pending litigation "on the properties we are seeking returned from the Industrial Defendants. Here, CPLs would act as a tool to protect the rights of the Wolastoqey pending trial, but also to protect prospective buyers and lenders by giving them notice of the claim."
When contacted on Thursday, a spokesperson with J.D. Irving declined to comment. Similar requests made to H.J. Crabbe & Sons and Acadian Timber were not returned by publication time.