British Columbia

Trump's tough stance on softwood complicates future for northern B.C. reserve

Expensive new duties already sees hours cut for some staff

Expensive new duties already sees hours cut for some staff

Kyahwood forklift driver Paul Michel (left) general manager Gary MacKinnon (centre) and Moricetown band manager Lucy Gagnon expect tough days ahead for the Indigenous-owned-and-operated mill. (George Baker/CBC)

Canada's trade stand-off with the United States over softwood lumber has already cost jobs on a small First Nations reserve in northwest British Columbia.

Moricetown's Kyahwood Forest Products sells finger joint spruce and pine wood lumber to buyers in Texas. 

But stiff tariffs leveled by U.S. President Donald Trump's administration last week could shut down the mill and send 61 employees onto the unemployment line. 

So far, seven employees have lost their full-time jobs. More cuts could be on the way.  

"It's a no-win situation for the community members that we had to tell that they were going to be put on call," said the mill's general manager, Gary MacKinnon. 

New price to pay to sell to U.S. customers

Kyahwood Forest Products mill in Moricetown B.C., faces challenging times because of new American softwood tariffs. (George Baker/CBC)

Kyahwood has sold its lumber products to Texas buyers for 20 years. 

But a 19.88 per cent countervailing duty and an additional 10 per cent anti-dumping fee hurts the mill's ability to profit from that relationship. 

MacKinnon believes, for now, the mill can hit those rates and keep running.

"There is a lot of hope in being able to cover those costs."

Kyahwood not your average mill

MacKinnon says Kyahwood is the only Indigenous-owned, Indigenous-run mill in British Columbia that he knows of. 

About 90 per cent of employees live on the Moricetown reserve.

Losing it would have a devastating impact on the 500-person community that relies heavily on it to put food on the table for many families who would not have work otherwise. 

The mill's staff is mostly made up of people who are coming off social assistance, said band manager Lucy Gagnon.

"They are people who haven't had a chance at income for a very long time," she said. 

Message for Trump

Percy Michel is one of those employees who found an opportunity to earn income at the mill.

He's been there for 20 years.

Michel said he is worried about his mill's future, and he has a message for Donald Trump:

"Beware of the little people," he said. "This is going to hurt the little people more than the big corporations." 

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About the Author

George Baker

Associate Producer

George Baker is a radio producer for CBC Daybreak North based out of Prince Rupert in northwest British Columbia. Twitter: @cbcbakergeorget