The Halalt First Nation and its business partners are suing Catalyst Paper, alleging that a 59-year-old mill is trespassing and that the company has disclosed sensitive information, despite signing a confidentiality agreement.
The paper and pulp company, based in Richmond, .B.C., says it denies the allegations contained in two separate civil suits and plans to defend itself vigorously.
Among other things, it says the trespassing suit is seeking $2 billion and a permanent order to prevent Catalyst from conducting operations at the Crofton Mill on the southeast coast of Vancouver Island, near Duncan, B.C.
Catalyst says the Halalt First Nation claims the Crofton mill — operating since 1957 — interferes with its water and land rights and has caused damage to fisheries and land within the Halalt's territory.
A second suit filed by the Halalt, Sunvault Energy Inc. and Aboriginal Power Corp. seeks $100 million from Catalyst and an order from court to permanently stop Catalyst from building, owning or operating an anaerobic digester facility.
Environmental, cultural damages highlighted
In an interview with All Points West host Robyn Burns, Halalt First Nation's director of operations, Eli Enns, highlighted alleged environmental and cultural damage from the mill.
He also said the $2.1 billion sum they are seeking is justified when the totality of effects on the land and the health of Halalt First Nation are considered.
"They've been fairly dramatic over the 60 years of operation. We've seen a huge decline in biological diversity in the system and water quality," Enns said.
"Probably as importantly, the mill was constructed in and around and on sacred burial sites of the Coast Salish peoples of Halalt."
Enns also said the mill's location has damaged the Halalt First Nation economically by damaging sea resources in the area.
"I don't think you can put a dollar amount on the emotional damage to the community, but you can start to put a dollar amount on the cost of cleaning up the mess, the impact that it's had on the local community members' ability to meet their needs," he said.
Enns says his community acted in good faith in attempting to work with Catalyst to address their concerns, but the attempts did not work out.
To hear the interview with Halalt First Nation's director of operations Eli Enns, click the audio labelled: B.C. First Nation lawsuit seeks paper mill's closure