Debtridden Wasaya Airways in danger of collapsing forced to sell assets

first_imgBy Kenneth Jackson and Cullen CrozierAPTN InvestigatesJust before Christmas the principal owners of Wasaya Airways received a letter.They were warned Wasaya was about to be grounded by a mountain of debt, according to a letter obtained by APTN Investigates in an on-going investigation into the First Nation-owned airway.The letter was written by the chair of Wasaya’s board of directors to the chiefs of the 11 other First Nations that share ownership of Wasaya.“Unless we are able to substantially reduce the amount owed to (Wasaya) Airways by our ownership First Nations, as represented by you, within the next month, (Wasaya) Airways is in danger of collapsing,” wrote Chief Bart Meekis on Dec. 16.Meekis confronted the ownership First Nations, telling the chiefs they had racked up more than $2.6 million in debt to Wasaya as of Dec. 13. Meekis is also an ownership chief, representing Sandy Lake First Nation.Together, they were more than $1 million over their credit limit.A closure wouldn’t just affect them but the many other First Nations that depend on them, Meekis said.“The impact of this would be catastrophic, not only for you and for your community, but also for the other First Nations and businesses within each community, as no other airway will be willing and able to offer the level of service that we currently provide,” he said, adding that he appreciated that government funds were slow coming in to each First Nation, possibly affecting their ability to pay on time.It was just a couple months ago when Meekis raised the alarm in the letter.Wasaya hasn’t gone under and continues to operate.APTN has learned that to do this, Wasaya had to either sell assets or is in the process of selling assets.When questioned by APTN, Meekis said the company had to make changes.“We’re restructuring,” he said during an interview. “There are some businesses that Wasaya had that were eating away at the financials, so right now what’s happening is we’re letting go of some of those side businesses that Wasaya had that’s not making money. It’s just drawing money out from the business.”He didn’t say what those businesses were but according to their website Wasaya owns Wasaya Prop Shop that claims to be a worldwide leader in aircraft repair. The website also lists a fueling company.Wasaya flew over 100,000 passengers in 2012.Wasaya President Tom Morris at first offered this week to speak to APTN face-to-face, but later declined via a letter.In his letter, Morris wrote: “Wasaya Airways LP is a private company and is accountable to the First Nations who are its owners. Wasaya Airways will not comment publicly on any internal matters. ”It’s not clear if the mounting debt has been cleared but it was beginning to interfere with day-to-day business as creditors refused to loan anymore money to Wasaya until they paid up, according to Meekis’ letter.“We have already been refused further credit by some suppliers, pending clearing our outstanding accounts payable,” said Meekis in the Dec. 16 letter. “That is in itself a warning sign that we are in financial trouble.”When asked why the ownership communities ran up the debt to the point of near collapse Meekis said it wasn’t just the owners but other communities that Wasaya provides services to.“It’s not only the ownership communities it’s the other communities that run up the bill,” he said to APTN during a telephone interview.But in his letter to the chiefs, Meekis said the other communities’ debt was considerably low in comparison to what he said ownership First Nations owed.He mentioned, but didn’t name, 10 other First Nations owing just over $200,000.Wasaya staff and chiefs have flown into the communities to try and get First Nations to pay up, Meekis told APTN. Chiefs were warned that Wasaya wouldn’t carry their debt any longer.“So what’s happened is that the staff, and some of the chiefs, have visited the communities to try to, because it’s not a bank. Wasaya’s not a bank. To try to pay their bills because when you owe a bill you got to pay your bill,” he said.According to further documents obtained by APTN and interviews with confidential sources, since Wayaya became 100 per cent First Nation owned in 1998, it’s unclear if ever only turned a profit besides one year and that was in 2009.Meekis partially addressed that in his letter to the chiefs.“We also know that the decisions not to pay your Wasaya account directly relates to your ownership shares in the company. In those communities where the First Nations’ accounts with Wasaya are way beyond their authorized limits, local stores are also way behind with their payments,” Meekis wrote.When asked why Wasaya has rarely provided a yearly return to the communities Meekis said he didn’t know.“I don’t know if I can give you that information right now because I don’t know,” he said.Meekis called a different APTN reporter later the same night of his interview, demanding to know who provided us with a copy of his Dec. 16 letter to the chiefs.The identity of the source was not disclosed.During the phone interview, when Meekis was asked if Wasaya is going bankrupt, he replied that it wasn’t.But in his letter, Meekis warned the chiefs that financial collapse was a very real possibility. He wrote that six First Nations in the ownership group were in “serious arrears.”“Please be prepared to work with us, as we all stand to lose if Wasaya Airways fails,” he [email protected]@aptn.calast_img read more

Continue reading

Government document calls Unistoten leader aboriginal extremist

first_imgA government report says the hereditary chiefs of Wet’suwet’en Nation in B.C. are led by “aboriginal extremist.” Photo: Kathleen Martens/APTNJustin BrakeAPTN NewsHereditary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en Nation say their territory and sovereignty are under attack by a pipeline company that’s turning to the courts for help in building a pipeline through unceded Wet’suwet’en lands.But federal government documents obtained by APTN News reveal the odds may already be stacked against the Wet’suwet’en, and in particular the Unist’ot’en House of the Gilseyhu Clan, which the government regards as a risk to Canada’s “national interest” and one of its leaders an “aboriginal extremist”.The documents, dated April 1, 2015 and marked “SECRET”, also reveal the government’s concern that ending the years-long Unist’ot’en resistance to pipeline development through their territory could trigger nationwide Indigenous-led protests.Last week Coastal GasLink Pipeline Ltd., a subsidiary of Calgary-based energy company TransCanada, filed for an injunction with the Supreme Court of B.C. against the Unist’ot’en, whose members reoccupied parts of their traditional territory eight years ago.The Unist’ot’en, who say they have the full support of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, have until Dec. 10 to respond to the application.The documents obtained by APTN come from the Government Operations Centre (GOC), an office of the Department of Public Safety that compiles information from other departments and police and intelligence agencies to identify potential threats to what the government regards as Canada’s national interest.The 12-page report assesses the Unist’ot’en’s risk to the national interest as “Medium-Low”. A section titled “Impact on the National Interest” appears to offer details on this conclusion but is entirely redacted.The report contains no expressed concern for the Unist’ot’en or discussion around whether the potential resource development on their territory poses a risk to their Indigenous rights.The Unist’ot’en say the person referred to in the government document is not an extremist, but a hereditary chief.They suspect Canada and the RCMP will try to portray them as potentially violent and as criminals if police are compelled by the provincial supreme court to remove the Unist’ot’en from their land.Returning to the landIn 2010, after learning of various companies’ interest in transporting oil and gas through their territories to the B.C. coast, Wet’suwet’en citizens Freda Huson of the Unist’ot’en House and Smogelgem, Hereditary Chief of the Laksamshu Clan— who is also known as Warner Naziel—moved out on to their lands to build a camp, in part as a way to resist what they see as unauthorized encroachment on their territory.Huson and Naziel are the two individuals named on Coastal GasLink’s injunction application, along with “Jane Doe” and “John Doe” and “persons unknown”.What’s now widely known as the “Unist’ot’en Camp” has since become a home and a place of healing for Wet’suwet’en people, Smogelgem told APTN in a phone interview from Smithers, where he and other hereditary chiefs gathered last week to discuss the injunction, he said.“That’s our permanent home and we’re planning on living out the rest of our lives there,” he said.Smogelgem said moving from a nearby community and back onto their traditional lands has “become a way of life” for he and Huson and others who stay with them.Watch Rob Smith’s 2016 APTN Investigates episode about the Unist’ot’en camp.“We live off the land. We do a lot of trapping and hunting and fishing up there. We collect our medicines. We pick all the berries. We sustain ourselves primarily off of our territory, and that’s the way our ancestors were.”In addition to it being their home, Huson and Smogelgem have overseen the construction, with the help of volunteers, of a three-storey healing centre where they house citizens of their Nation in need of support with addiction and other health issues.Huson said the centre, which utilizes traditional Wet’suwet’en healing methods, has already provided shelter and healing for a family with five children, and currently has others staying there.The Unist’ot’en Healing Centre prior to its completion. Unist’ot’en Camp/Facebook.“The land itself contributes to speeding up the process of the healing — because they’re actually being reconnected to their homelands, and that actually helps in their healing.”In recent years, as workers associated with Coastal GasLink, and previously the Northern Gateway pipeline—before that project was killed by the Trudeau government in 2016—attempted to access the Unisto’ot’en lands, Huson and others have repeatedly turned them away. Huson said the Unist’ot’en have filmed the encounters for evidence of their people’s intentions and behaviour.“We’ve always been peaceful and we’ve always been respectful,” she said. “It was their workers who haven’t been respectful…who go back and claim we threatened them.”Indigenous rights and title Vs. Canada’s largest ever private sector investmentIf built, the almost 700-kilometre Coastal GasLink pipeline would carry fracked natural gas produced by LNG Canada from just outside Dawson Creek in northeastern B.C. to a processing facility in Kitimat, where the gas would be liquefied and shipped to Asian markets.The processing facility, pipeline and associated infrastructure are said to be worth a combined $40 billion, making the project the largest private sector investment in Canadian history.In October, at an announcement that the pipeline would go ahead, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the LNG project, including the Coastal GasLink pipeline, “shows what’s possible when you collaboration and consult with Indigenous and local communities, when you coordinate all orders of government, and when people insist on economic, environmental and socially responsible development of our natural resources.”In its court application Coastal GasLink says it has “entered into project agreements with all 20 elected Indigenous bands along the Project route, including five Wet’suwet’en Bands.”The company says the Unist’ot’en “blockade is causing damage and irreparable harm.”“It is not my problem that they didn’t follow proper business practice to ensure that the land you’re going to try to utilize, that you got permission from the title holders,” said Huson.Smogelgem, hereditary chief of the Laksamshu Clan, and Unist’ot’en spokesperson Freda Huson say the Wet’suwet’en have never ceded their territories. Unist’ot’en Camp/Facebook.“When you hear they have 100 per cent support from First Nations along this proposed pipeline route, those are elected bands and not one pipeline goes through those reserves where elected officials have jurisdiction,” Chief Na’Moks, hereditary chief of the Wet’suwet’en Tsayu Clan, told APTN in a phone interview.“The territory itself—the jurisdiction there—belongs to the people and the hereditary chiefs and the names that we carry.”The hereditary chiefs may have a strong case if they end up in court, according to Métis lawyer Bruce McIvor, who runs First Peoples Law in Vancouver.“This is one of the huge outstanding issues now in Aboriginal law: who gets to speak for the Indigenous people? It’s one of the most difficult, thorny things to unravel as part of decolonization,” McIvor said.“We have hundreds of Indian Act bands across the country and a lot of the time those bands may not align with the traditional governance [systems].”The Wet’suwet’en, he explained, “have a very complicated governance system” compared to other Indigenous peoples.“They have their various clans and houses and they’re quite numerous. And they don’t necessarily align with the Indian Act governance system.”McIvor said the Unist’ot’en’s case is strengthened by the Supreme Court of Canada’s 1997 Delgamuukw decision.“They’re not operating in a vacuum when it comes to Canadian law,” he says. “The Gitxsan and the Wet’suwet’en led extensive evidence about their governance systems as part of the Delgamuukw trial. It’s there, it’s on the record — how it works. And then of course how it’s very different than the Indian Act chief and council system.”McIvor said if the provincial or federal governments want to “override” the Office of the Wet’suwet’en decision not to let the pipeline through their territory, “then they’re held to a very high [legal] standard in order to try and justify the entrenchment of title.”TransCanada applied for an injunction and a civil lawsuit against Unist’ot’en Camp. They’re seeking an injunction & damages for “occupying, obstructing, blocking, physically impeding or delaying access” to our own unceded territory. Statement: https://t.co/S8FXB2SaiM #nopipelines pic.twitter.com/LnR8TwRjqg— Unist’ot’en Camp (@UnistotenCamp) November 29, 2018In its application the company said the project “is at a point where unimepeded access is now required to complete the work necessary to finalize execution plans and permitting, and continue with construction of the project.”Without unimpeded access to the site, they say, “the project cannot proceed”.“We will protect our lands as we see fit”In its risk assessment report of the Unist’ot’en “blockade” the GOC regards the Unisto’ot’en camp as “the ideological and physical focal point of Aboriginal resistance to resource extraction projects.”It also reveals government was aware TransCanada would pursue legal avenues to deal with the Unist’ot’en.“TransCanada has signaled that it will seek a British Columbia Provincial Court injunction presumably to have the protesters and blockade removed,” the document reads, and that the injunction “is expected to be sought in April 2015.”TransCanada, through Coastal GasLink Pipeline Ltd., finally applied for that injunction on Nov. 26.In a statement posted on its website last Thursday, Coastal GasLink says its decision to seek the injunction against the Unist’ot’en “was not taken lightly,” and that “after years of attempting to engage the blockade to work through a solution, this step has become a last resort and a necessary action in our efforts to safely gain access to the area.“As we have done in the past, we will continue to keep the lines of communications open to work towards a mutually beneficial outcome.”The GOC document says if an injunction is enforced, “there is concern that violence could result.”The government believes that “other groups may use this violence as a trigger to protest against other federal initiatives,” adding the protests could centre around other issues important to Indigenous people, including missing and murdered Indigenous women, the environment, and Bill C-51, the Harper government’s controversial 2015 anti-terrorism legislation.Hereditary Chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en Nation in B.C. say LNG pipeline doesn’t have unanimous consentCommunity on edge as LNG plans ‘man camps’ to start building gas pipelineThe feds believed at the time that the response to police enforcing the injunction could amount to “efforts to obstruct site access to pipeline companies, coupled with aggressive and threatening language, and potentially property damage to equipment.”That prediction was “based on historical precedence, with confrontations occurring during 2014 between pipeline companies and protesters that resulted in the RCMP attending in order to keep the peace.”Ultimately though, the GOC rated the “severity of those events…as LOW,” the document reads.“Past assessments…suggest that these types of events are not highly functional due to a lack of the organization’s ability to garner the support of large groups. There is no indication that ongoing protests and blockades have been endorsed by local band councils or First Nation chiefs.”Injunction coincides with government’s commitment to Indigenous rights frameworkHuson believes the “aboriginal extremist” referred to in the report is Hereditary Chief Smogelgem, since Huson and Smogelgem are widely regarded as the camp’s leaders, and since the GOC reveals the gender of the individual it’s referencing.In a written statement to APTN Public Safety Canada said it “cannot comment on matters before the courts,” but that “our government vigorously defends the rights of all Canadians to peaceful assembly and demonstration.”The department says is “does not collect information about groups or individuals [and] relies on partner departments and agencies to provide analysis on threat assessments to the GOC.The GOC in turn “compiles this information to identify potential impacts and to plan for whole of government consequence management response. Its job is simply to be aware of significant public events in case the Government is called upon to help.”(The Unist’ot’en and Wet’suwet’en heredtiary chiefs say they will fulfill their duty to protect their territory from unwanted development. Kathleen Martens/APTN) “Fulfilling these obligations should be a priority, as the United Nations has repeatedly urged,” he said.After generations of colonization the Wet’suwet’en have finally “realized what we’ve lost,” said Huson.“We’ve got only like 10 per cent of our traditional territory left,” she explained, citing municipalities, farming, mining, logging and other resource development that has encroached on her people’s lands.“That’s why we’re grasping on to that 10 per cent so tightly right now, because our lives depend on it. We’re grasping on to it so we can practice our traditional ways of medicine, berry-picking, hunting, fishing.“All these natural resources that are valuable to us you cannot replace.”Chief Na’Moks said the hereditary chiefs “have banned pipelines in our territories in our house of parliament, and our people have supported that.“We will stand to protect our territory.”[email protected]@JustinBrakeNewslast_img read more

Continue reading

Indias restaurant business gathers steam after 2 years

Close India: After effects of demonetisation of high value currency notes [Representational Image]ReutersThe restaurant business in India is seen picking up pace in August, driven by outlets in new markets and a rise in demand at malls for giving heavy discounts to customers. The industry gained momentum after two years of sluggish growth.Stocks of three listed restaurant companies in India touched 52-week highs in August and the market value of Jubilant FoodWorks jumped 44 percent over the past three months to about 8,880 crore on Thursday, Economic Times reported.Earlier this month, Indian based Jubilant FoodWorks Ltd which operates Domino’s and Dunkin Donuts said it will pump in Rs 100 crore to revive the food products and packaging for Domino’s in India. The company also said it will expand about 50 stores this year.The focus on delivering “better value for money and innovation” contributed to a growth uptick, along with reduction of losses, controlling costs and driving efficiencies, which led to higher operating margins, said Pratik Pota, chief executive, Jubilant, while announcing the June quarter earnings last month.The upgraded strategies pushed Jubilant to grow 6.5 percent in same store sales in the quarter that ended on 30 June 2017 which was the highest in two years.Westlife Developments sales also surged almost 14 percent in the quarter ended in June 2017, compared to last year, and same-store sales surged 9 percent, which was the fastest in four years. The company runs McDonald’s outlet in the west and south India regions.Restaurant Business recovers on RemonetisationPrime Minister Narendra Modi in a surprise move last year wiped out 500 and 1,000 rupee notes in a bid to fight corruption which drove Indian households to struggle for daily needs as the economy was heavily depended on cash at the time.The move as also dented business confidence in India.After demonetisation, the consumers have also cut on their spending because of rising economic uncertainty. Manufacturing and services activity had also dipped after the surprise move.Scroll down for video A notice is pasted at a shop stating the refusal of the acceptance of the old 500 and 1000 Indian rupee banknotes and acceptance of the new 500 and 2000 Indian rupee banknotes, in Allahabad, India, November 10, 2016.ReutersHowever, restaurant sales are now picking up after more than two years of sluggish growth suggesting that the businesses in India are now recovering from the currency shock.”The effect of demonetisation on consumer sentiment is wearing off,” said Anjan Chatterjee, founder of Speciality Restaurants.”There was a lag in recent months but in the long run, our outlook remains robust. There will always be some quarters of slow growth and others will be high-growth ones,” he added.The overall Indian food industry is expected to grow at a rate of 11 percent to $65.4 billion by 2018. IBTimes VideoRelated VideosMore videos Play VideoPlayMute0:00/0:00Loaded: 0%0:00Progress: 0%Stream TypeLIVE0:00?Playback Rate1xChaptersChaptersDescriptionsdescriptions off, selectedSubtitlessubtitles settings, opens subtitles settings dialogsubtitles off, selectedAudio TrackFullscreenThis is a modal window.The media could not be loaded, either because the server or network failed or because the format is not supported.Beginning of dialog window. Escape will cancel and close the window.TextColorWhiteBlackRedGreenBlueYellowMagentaCyanTransparencyOpaqueSemi-TransparentBackgroundColorBlackWhiteRedGreenBlueYellowMagentaCyanTransparencyOpaqueSemi-TransparentTransparentWindowColorBlackWhiteRedGreenBlueYellowMagentaCyanTransparencyTransparentSemi-TransparentOpaqueFont Size50%75%100%125%150%175%200%300%400%Text Edge StyleNoneRaisedDepressedUniformDropshadowFont FamilyProportional Sans-SerifMonospace Sans-SerifProportional SerifMonospace SerifCasualScriptSmall CapsReset restore all settings to the default valuesDoneClose Modal DialogEnd of dialog window. COPY LINKAD Loading … read more

Continue reading