A federal parliamentary committee has passed a motion to investigate the ownership structure and business relations of the B.C.-based forestry company Paper Excellence — the largest of its kind in North America.
The motion, passed in Ottawa Friday in an in-camera meeting of the Standing Committee on Natural Resources, called on Paper Excellence owner Jackson Wijaya and Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry Francois-Philippe Champagne to testify before the committee.
“My parliamentary motion to bring forestry giant @PaperExcellence to testify about their corporate structure has been approved,” wrote NDP natural resources critic Charlie Angus in a tweet Friday after the motion was passed.
“We will be asking owner Jackson Wijaya to testify about links to Asia Pulp and Paper and Chinese government financing. We need these hearings asap.”
The probe comes following a months-long journalistic investigation conducted by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) — including media partners Glacier Media, the CBC, the Halifax Examiner, Le Monde and Radio France — into the company’s overseas ties.
That investigation revealed a nexus of links between Paper Excellence and Asia Pulp and Paper, a forestry and paper conglomerate environmental groups allege has been responsible for widespread deforestation, human rights abuses and conflicts with Indigenous communities. Both companies say they are independent of one another.
In a statement from Conservative natural resources critic Shannon Stubbs’s office, the MP said she support’s efforts to get more information on the approval of Paper Excellence’s recent acquisition of Resolute Forest Products. The US$2-billion deal, approved this month, gave the company control of an additional 20 million hectares of forest, meaning it now controls forests equivalent in area to four Nova Scotias.
“We have said that there are a number of measures that the Liberals could take to lower the thresholds for security reviews — in particular from foreign, state-owned and hostile regime acquisitions into resource development,” the statement read.
In a prepared statement, Paper Excellence said it's committed to creating jobs and “maintaining a positive working relationship” with governments across Canada while respecting environmental regulations.
“Paper Excellence welcomes the opportunity to answer questions from the committee,” the statement read.
With a headquarters listed in Richmond, B.C., Paper Excellence holds dozens of pulp and paper mills across Canada, the U.S., Brazil and France.
Earlier this year, the B.C. and Canadian governments gave the company $18.8 million to upgrade its mill in Crofton — part of over $300 million the company has received from governments, according to an ICIJ tally.
A spokesperson for the office of B.C. Premier David Eby deferred to the Ministry of Forests. Glacier Media requested an interview with forestry Minister Bruce Ralston. That request was not granted. Instead, a spokesperson listed investments the provincial government has made in the forestry sector.
“We are monitoring in the proceedings in Ottawa and the results of the federal review,” read a statement from the ministry spokesperson.
An investigation that spanned the globe
As part of their investigation, Glacier Media and its ICIJ partners interviewed former employees and reviewed leaked emails that showed staff worked freely between Paper Excellence and APP.
Glacier Media's review of shipping data showed pulp shipments from Canada have gone to buyers with opaque corporate ownership in Indonesia and China. Through satellite images and marine tracking technology, Glacier Media traced a pulp shipment from a mill in British Columbia to Shanghai, which ended up at a company with corporate links to APP. The Asian conglomerate denied ever buying pulp “directly” from Paper Excellence.
The Halifax Examiner’s reporting led to insider allegations from a whistleblower who worked inside APP’s operations in Shanghai, and traced the toxic legacy of Paper Excellence’s footprint at its Nova Scotia mill.
CBC reporters, meanwhile, looked into a $1.25 billion in credit Paper Excellence obtained from the China Development Bank. The company did not answer several questions about the financial relationship, only stating it no longer held any debt with the Chinese state-owned bank.
And in Europe, reporters at Le Monde investigated how Paper Excellence’s French operations were linked to Asia Pulp and Paper’s operations in China and Indonesia; reporters at Radio France revealed a convicted wood thief acted as a supplier for Paper Excellence at the time the company cut down hundreds of ancient trees. A Paper Excellence spokesperson said it cut links with the firm once it learned of the accusations.
The reporting was part of Deforestation Inc., a global investigation led by ICIJ involving 140 reporters from 27 countries.