Unfinished business between First Nations and Catalyst Paper Excellence

·3 min read

“We are working closely with the Hegus John Hackett and the Tla’amin Executive Council to ensure the steps we take in building this new relationship are thoughtful and measured.”

That’s what Catalyst Paper Excellence stated in a media release on September 24, 2021, when the company announced the re-naming of the local mill to Catalyst tiskwat.

Less than three months later, on December 1, Catalyst made another announcement: the indefinite curtailment of this mill.

So what does this mean for the relationship Catalyst and Tla’amin created? Well, for the most part it’s pretty uncertain, according to Tla’amin spokes-people.

Erik Blaney, Tla’amin Executive Council member and Housepost (elected member in charge of a department) for the lands and resources department, says, “the mill has honored our request to change their name to tiskwat, and allowed us to hold a naming ceremony on our traditional village site.

“The indefinite curtailment is something that has completely blindsided our Nation.”

Moving forward, Erik says that Tla’amin is open to having communications with Catalyst tiskwat for any economic opportunities that could arise in the future.

In an emailed statement, echoing their initial name-change announcement, Catalyst states, “We are working closely with the Hegus John Hackett and the Tla’amin Executive Council to ensure the steps we take in building this new relationship are thoughtful and measured.

“Despite the challenges faced by the mill, we remain very much committed to continuing to build out an approach that explores opportunities together.”

“We would like to expressly thank and raise our hands to the Tla’amin Executive Council for their graciousness and patience with us as we learn and grow. Reconciliation efforts aren’t always going to be easy conversations, but the professionalism and responsiveness of the Council has made this process a very positive one for our company.”

So what comes next? In an email, Catalyst’s public affairs manager Brenda Martin wrote, “Paper Excellence is engaged with our governments and potential partners investigating promising new opportunities. “The facility has advantages that make it very appealing to industry such as unique access to deep water, natural gas, electricity, and water supplies, as well as its existing biomass boiler with power generating capacity, wastewater treatment and solid waste disposal infrastructure.

“It is Paper Excellence’s long-term goal that the site continues to provide meaningful employment and economic activity in Powell River.”

Tla’amin Executive Council member and public works Housepost, Dillon Johnson says, “My heart goes out to all the families whose livelihoods are at stake as a result of the recent announcement.

“We will be continuing our discussions with Paper Excellence Catalyst regarding opportunities for collaboration at the tiskwat site. We have taken a few first steps in our new relationship so far with our ceremony, the name change, sign unveiling and we have been working together on a draft Memorandum of Understanding that has identified a number of potential joint initiatives.

“We don’t know yet what this shut down will mean for our relationship and the future of the site, but we are looking forward to picking up discussions in January.”

Abby Francis, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, qathet Living

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