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Canadian Tribe Sues|Paper Mill for $2 Billion

VANCOUVER, B.C. (CN) - A paper mill on Vancouver Island has been pumping toxic sludge into a fish-bearing river and desecrating remains of the Halalt First Nation, the group's elected chief claims in a $2 billion lawsuit.

The Halalt First Nation sued Catalyst Paper Corp. in B.C. Supreme Court on Friday, twice, seeking more than $2 billion in damages.

In one claim, the Halalt say Catalyst's Crofton Mill, in operation since 1957 under different owners, has contaminated the Chemainus River, which traverses the tribe's land, causing erosion, increased turbidity, and harming fish spawning habitat.

In addition, Chief Cul-Cee-Muztion aka James Robert Thomas claims, Catalyst has been moving 100 trucks a day through Halalt land without permission. The Halalt seek more than $2 billion in damages for nuisance, trespass, and interference with land rights.

In a second claim filed the same day, the Halalt and several business partners claim Catalyst breached a confidentiality agreement about a project designed to reduce the Crofton Mill's energy expenses.

According to this claim, the parties inked a confidentiality agreement about an "anaerobic digester facility" to generate methane and save the Crofton Mill money.

But the Halalt claim Catalyst disclosed information about the business to a competitor and initiated a "project that was virtually identical" to the Halalt group's proposal.

The Halalt and its partners seek $100 million in damages for conspiracy, breach of confidentiality, and interference with contractual relations.

Other plaintiffs in this suit are Sunvault Energy and Aboriginal Power Corp.

The defendants, in addition to Catalyst, are Axsiom Biocapture and Graham Illingworth.

"Catalyst denies the allegations contained in both claims and intends to vigorously defend itself," the company said in a statement. A Catalyst spokesperson declined further comment when reached by Courthouse News.

The Halalt's attorneys, Jeffrey Rath in Alberta, and Katherine Ducey in Vancouver with Campbell May Froh & Rice, did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

The Halalt are one of six tribes, or first nations, in the Hul'qumi'num Treaty Group, which was founded in 1993 to negotiate a treaty with British Columbia and Canada. The six member tribes have about 6,000 total members.

Hul'qumi'num aka Halkomelem is the people's language. It is classified as a Salish language. Fewer than 300 native speakers of the language are believed to remain.


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