Final Cut: Fostering relationships with First Nations
By Monica Bailey
By Monica Bailey
Collaborative partnerships to foster long-term business relationships with First Nations are built on respecting rights and engaging in meaningful dialogue around sustainable economic activity.
Many forest companies in B.C. are actively involved in developing various types of partnerships with First Nations. TimberWest has a number of initiatives underway. In the last few years, we have actively found innovative ways to strengthen connections with many First Nation groups across Vancouver Island and the coast.
In 2017, TimberWest undertook the Progressive Aboriginal Relations (PAR) certification process. Defined as a roadmap for further partnership planning, the PAR program is run by the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business and confirms corporate performance in Aboriginal relations through certification levels that signify the company as a good business partner, great place to work and committed to the prosperity of Aboriginal communities.
Through continued respectful negotiations, TimberWest has 12 memorandums of understanding with First Nation communities all over Vancouver Island and several long-term business arrangements. These agreements establish working frameworks around culture, education, common projects, environmental investments, and commercial projects on timberlands.
One of the environmental legacy programs we support is the SFI Small-Scale Forest Management Module for Indigenous Peoples, Families, and Communities, which was implemented on the jointly managed working forest of K’ómoks First Nation and Qualicum First Nation.
In the spring of 2018, TimberWest contributed to the fish hatchery program developed by the Halalt First Nation, whose vision was to increase salmon stocks flowing through the Chemainus River.
Recognizing that the restoration of cultural heritage can create much meaningful dialogue, TimberWest recently donated a seven-metre long, 300-year-old red cedar log in support of the Royal BC Museum, Songhees and Esquimalt First Nations and the Ministry of Health’s “Crossing Cultures and Healing” carving project. The log was selected and carved by Vancouver Island artists Tom and Perry LaFortune, members of the Tsawout First Nation. Upon its completion, the totem pole was unveiled in front of its permanent home at the Ministry of Health’s offices in Victoria.
TimberWest expanded its annual First Nations art program in the summer of 2018 and commissioned a number of artists whose collective work represented two major language groups on Vancouver Island. The group of artists had their works showcased at the Royal BC Museum where they had a chance to interact with the public and explain the design process behind all of their creative pieces. The artists’ works were also a featured exhibition at the museum in the fall.
Over the past two years, TimberWest has stepped up its efforts to provide educational opportunities for First Nation students of all ages. In 2017, TimberWest partnered with Ditidaht First Nation and Frontier College, supporting a literacy program over the summer months with the goal of empowering youth through ongoing learning opportunities.
More recently, we helped expand opportunities for First Nation students looking to pursue post-secondary and post-graduate studies in forestry. A brand new $50,000 post-secondary scholarship for Indigenous students enrolled in forest management studies was announced, with the TimberWest Indigenous Forestry Education Award created through the Indspire Building Brighter Futures: Bursaries, Scholarships and Awards program. Additionally, TimberWest and UBC announced a first-of-its-kind $100,000 endowment program for Indigenous students pursuing graduate degrees in forestry. Our goal is to help ensure that financial barriers do not prevent the many talented and motivated Indigenous students from pursuing post-secondary and post-graduate level studies in forestry.
TimberWest will continue to deliver on its commitment to fostering these collaborative relationships well into the future. We want to see these partnerships continue to evolve and be mutually beneficial for all those involved.
Monica Bailey is the director of communications and engagement for TimberWest Forest Corp.