Cowichan Valley’s Halalt First Nation drops billion dollar Catalyst lawsuits

The Halalt First Nation has decided to discontinue two civil lawsuits, one asking for billions of dollars in damages

The Halalt First Nation has decided to discontinue two civil lawsuits, one asking for billions of dollars in damages, it had filed against Catalyst Paper earlier this year.

Halalt Chief James Thomas said the First Nation has decided to “regroup” and meet again with the forest company, which owns and operates the pulp and paper mill in Crofton, to try and address the issues without resorting to court action.

He said the Halalt came to the conclusion that the lawsuits weren’t “the best strategy” to have its concerns dealt with.

The first claim, filed in January in the Supreme Court of B.C., alleged that Catalyst had illegally trespassed on, and caused damages to, the Halalt’s asserted territories and fishery resources through the operation of the Crofton mill since it opened 1957.

The First Nation was looking for $2 billion in damages in the lawsuit and a permanent order to prevent Catalyst from continuing operations at the Crofton mill.

The Notice of Discontinuance filed by the Halalt in this lawsuit will bring the litigation to an end.

The second claim was filed jointly by the Halalt First Nation, Sunvault Energy Inc. and Aboriginal Power Corp. and is alleging Catalyst disclosed certain confidential information pertaining to a proposed anaerobic digester facility in breach of a confidentiality agreement.

While the Halalt has removed itself as a plaintiff is this lawsuit, the two energy companies are continuing the litigation.

Catalyst has denied the allegations in the lawsuit and has indicated that it intends to continue to “vigorously” defend itself.

“We came to the conclusion that we didn’t think our strategy out fully in the beginning,” Thomas said.

“It’s very costly and time consuming [to go through the courts]. But we still want our concerns addressed and we are regrouping to decide how best to achieve that.”

Joe Nemeth, president of Catalyst, said the Richmond-based company is “pleased” with the Halalt’s decision to drop the lawsuits.

“Catalyst is focused on improving its long-term relationship with the Halalt First Nation and working collaboratively to safeguard the environment, along with developing mutually beneficial economic opportunities,” he said.