Monday, August 02, 2010

Haisla petition gov’t to maintain Eurocan closure

Published in the Kitimat Northern Sentinel, July 28, 2010.
Kitimat Councillor Randy Halyk has published correspondence implicating the provincial government worked to both reopen and maintain the Eurocan closure. 
The provincial government worked with the Viability Group to reopen the Eurocan paper mill, but letters from Kitamaat Village Council indicate the Haisla have requested the government to maintain the closure. 
"How the Provincial Government could support our endeavour and the Haisla at the same time smacks of hypocrisy," Halyk wrote in an open letter to the premier. 
In the letter, Halyk refers to an invitation extended to Haisla Chief Councillor Dolores Pollard regarding Eurocan viability. 
In Pollard's reply to Halyk she referred to discussions with Mr. Kenneth Howes, Manager of First Nations Consultation and Negotiation and Ian Sharp, Regional Manager Skeena Region, Environmental Protection Division. 
In a letter from Minister of Environment Barry Penner dated March 8, 2010, the minister proposes a meeting to discuss closure of the mill, "I have requested Mr. Kenneth Howes, Manager of First Nations Consultation, as well as Mr. Ian Sharp, Regional Manager Skeena Region, Environmental Protection Division, coordinate a meeting with the leadership of Kitamaat Village Council to discuss, in person, a process for engaging with the Haisla Nation on the closure of Eurocan pulp mill." 
In a media conference call July 26, Minister of Forests and Range, Pat Bell was asked about the Haisla letters, and answered, "We've not been engaged in any way, beyond responding to those letters." 
He went on to say, "our interests are first and foremost interests in seeing an opportunity for the Eurocan mill to reopen." 
Sentinel efforts to reach Pollard prior to deadline were unsuccessful. 
Haisla Nation expressed concerns in the letters related to damage claimed done by Eurocan operations to eulachon stocks, which the Haisla call Jauxan. 
In a letter dated Nov 23, 2009 to Penner, Pollard explains, "West Fraser's Eurocan facility has tainted Kitamaat River Jauxan since its very inception nearly four decades ago. 
"The Jauxan are a species of central cultural importance to our people and a critical source of sustenance. 
"The loss of the Kitamaat River Jauxan run has been devastating to the Haisla Nation community as a whole." 
Pollard goes on to request government assistance in environmental remediation. 
The response from Deputy Minister Doug Konkin, promises no assistance or financial help but encourages "the Haisla Nation to work directly with Eurocan's management team to better understand how closure activities may affect the interests of your community, the Kitimat River and the oolichan fishery." 
Jan 22, Pollard accused successive provincial governments of allowing this mess to be created and demands the government help clean it up by dismantling the mill, settlement ponds, effluent treatment basins, industrial land fill and contaminated soil. 
In speaking about the Kitimat River in the letter, Pollard says, "the Kitamaat River is sacred to our people and any discharge into that river violates Haisla Nation nuyem (Haisla Nation traditional law)." 
The letter concludes with a repeated request for "an adequate budget to address the costs that we will have to incur during our full involvement in the closure process." 
In the March 8 response, Penner proposes the face to face meeting.  It is unclear if the meeting has taken place or is planned for. 
Asked to respond to the letters, Mary Murphy, member of the Viability Group and president of CEP local 298, said, "it's important we look at every single person's issues and deal with them jointly," adding, "we don't just look after one group, we look after everybody." 
In a published statement Murphy said, "To this day, no one from the Haisla has informed me of their attempts to keep Eurocan from being sold or restarting." 
In the statement, Murphy adds, "West Fraser spend millions of dollars improving the effluent system, and daily monitoring. I believe that over the last several years no compensation for tainting was made to the Haisla as a result of the improvements." 
The Eurocan mill closed this Jan with the loss of 535 jobs.

Related Links
Kitimat Northern Sentinel
The Haisla Nation Government, Kitamaat Village Council

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