A local logging company has harvested a national award but a protest has cut into the accolades.
The McLeod Lake Indian Band owns and operates Duz Cho Logging, which was the 2012 recipient Tuesday of the Aboriginal Forest Products Business Leadership Award. It was presented Tuesday at the Assembly of First Nations national convention in Toronto, with partner agency the Forest Products Association of Canada. Duz Cho general manager Al Humphrys accepted the award.
FPAC is pleased to recognize Al Humphrys and the whole team at Duz Cho Logging for their
excellent business leadership, said Catherine Cobden, president and CEO of the forest products association. We applaud their commitment to skills training and their employment strategy to recruit First Nations employees.
The award has angered some members of the McLeod Lake Indian Band, however.
In a letter coinciding with the Assembly of First Nations convention, band member Justin Chingee said the conduct of band leaders makes the national citation feel insulting to some.
In the letter Chingee lambastes band leaders for alleged electoral offenses and discussions with mining companies.
Chingee claims to represent a group within the McLeod Lake Indian Band calling themselves the Tsekehne Unity Movement.
"We are writing this letter to show opposition to any award that is planned [to be given] at your assembly in the coming days," he wrote, then outlined the recent history of the internal dispute. "Should this letter be ignored it will send a clear message to our people - how our rights dont matter and industrial development in our traditional territory is more important."
The award was presented as scheduled and, said organizers, is focused on the logging company's 140 employees, of which 20 per cent are aboriginal. According to sources involved in the award, Duz Cho was on the brink of bankruptcy in 2008 at the peak of the global economic crisis but the company survived and in 2011 had revenues of $28 million with a forecast for $38 million in 2012.
"[Duz Cho Logging] has been in business for 24 years, a testament to a First Nations business
that has built success decade after decade," said Roger Augustine, the assembly's chair of the Chiefs Committee on Economic Development. This award recognizes entrepreneurial efforts that have positive environmental, economic and social impacts that keep First Nations communities strong and growing.
The company was nominated for the award by Canfor, which has a long-term milling relationship wit h Duz Cho. Al and his team have consistently delivered a high quality product to Canfor for many years and the company has been a pillar of strength for McLeod Lake," said Larry Clark, operations superintendent for Canfor.
According to the forest products association, there are about 17,000 aboriginal Canadians working in the forest sector.