Once again Doman (Western Forest Products) is seeking an extension from the bankruptcy court. Like most forestry stories in BC, reporting on the Doman bankruptcy has not addressed the complex, often contradictory, issues facing forestry on the coast.
While Doman clearly has been the most worker friendly major company in the coastal labour war, on the First Nations front Doman has created significant problems for itself.
Restructuring of Doman will inevitably result in a change in control of the company, as the Doman family is forced to cede control to its creditors (Doman has over $800 million in debt). Recently, BC courts have ruled that a change in control of a tenured forest company is “prima facie infringement of Aboriginal Title and Rights“. As a result of these rulings Doman’s restructuring faces significant obstacles.
With the help of Dogwood Initiative, a number of First Nations have indicated that they believe Doman’s tenure’s are encumbered by Aboriginal Title and Rights, thus Doman has a duty to consult and accommodate affected First Nations before proceeding with any restructuring.
In what appears to be an unusual display of duplicity, Doman has replied that they do not believe a “change in control” will occur and therefore no duties to First Nations exist, although they intend to consult after the deal is complete. At the same time, Doman has sought extensions in the bankruptcy proceedings in order to deal with First Nations issues, which it has indicated to First Nations don’t exist.
Dogwood Initiative is working with a number of First Nations to ensure Aboriginal Title and Rights are not ignored in the Doman restructuring. Stay tuned for more news as the restructuring proceeds.