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New ILMA boss calls for partnerships with First Nations

The incoming head of a group that represents small and mid-size lumber companies in the Kootenays and elsewhere is hoping for more collaboration between his members and First Nations on whose traditional territory they operate.

“We’ve already seen some great examples from members like Vaagen Fibre Canada when it comes to partnerships with local First Nations,” Paul Rasmussen said in a news release from the Interior Lumber Manufacturers’ Association. Vaagen has worked with the Osoyoos Indian Band.

“Reconciliation is about more than just recognition,” Rasmussen said. “It requires action, meaningful dialogue, and a true partnership, and I think there’s great opportunity across the southern interior to do more of that work.”

Rasmussen has just taken over as president of the organization, which has 13 members, including Kalesnikoff Lumber in Thrums, Atco Wood Products in Fruitvale, J.H. Huscroft in Creston, Gold Island Forest Products in South Slocan, Porcupine Wood Products in Salmo, and Vaagen Fibre in Midway.

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Rasmussen is a former Ministry of Forests executive, who has also worked in private industry, including for a couple of ILMA members. He was most recently an assistant deputy minister and was hired following the retirement of Dan Battistella.

“My whole career has been in the Kootenays and Southern Interior of BC, so I’ve got a deep understanding of the issues and opportunities in the ILMA region,” he said.

“The ILMA members have a different relationship with their communities. They’re family-owned, multi-generational, and deeply rooted. The business isn’t just a business to them; it’s a sustainable way of life that can’t be packed-up and moved to new locale when times are tough.”

Rasmussen describes himself as “a different kind of government guy.”

“I understand the legislative and technical parts of the business, but what I’m really passionate about is the connection between industry and community. I’ve got a rural development perspective that is a natural fit for the ILMA membership, and for the southern interior region.”

ILMA board chair Ken Kalesnikoff said Rasmussen will help the organization grow in new directions.

“Even though the ILMA is small, it’s dynamic and complex,” said Kalesnikoff. “Paul is the right fit for us at this time, as he can put more emphasis on explaining and expanding our connections with our communities.”

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