Paper Excellence Isn’t Just Any Old Forest Corporation

This company has quietly become Canada's biggest pulp and paper producer

It’s tied to a billionaire Indonesian family accused of many environmental violations

Paper Excellence is now the largest pulp and paper producer in Canada. It’s twice as big as Canfor, its nearest competitor, and owns mills across Canada.

The company is run and owned by a reclusive CEO, Jackson Wijaya, who belongs to a billionaire Indonesian business family.

Why should we care, you might wonder? What’s the big deal about another forestry corporation?

For starters, Canada’s forests are one of our most critical natural resources, and Paper Excellence now controls and manages 22 million hectares of it (an area four times the size of Nova Scotia.)

That much public land under the control of a foreign owner should make us care.

The company owns six mills in BC. Catalyst Port Alberni produces telephone directories and printer paper. Catalyst Crofton Mill produces pulp and paper. Howe Sound Pulp and Paper makes kraft pulp.

Paper Excellence also owns a distribution centre in Surrey and a pulp mill in the East Kootenays.

Last year the company shut down its Catalyst paper mill in Powell River, letting go of several hundred employees.

CBC investigative journalists recently peaked under the covers for a closer look at this secretive company. They found that the people and companies behind Paper Excellence have a history of using shell corporations and tax havens to hide financial transactions and assets from public and government scrutiny.

When CBC dug further into the company’s history, the story got more interesting and murky.

CEO Jackson Wijaya is the grandson of the Indonesian tycoon who created Sinar Mas, a company with interests in palm oil, real estate, and financial services. Experts believe Sinar Mas bankrolled the multi-billion dollar buying spree that began 15 years ago in Canada with the purchase of a mill in Saskatchewan.

Sinar Mas has a controlling interest in Asia Pulp & Paper, one of the world’s biggest pulp-and-paper players with a track record of environmental destruction.

Asia Pulp & Paper has been accused of flattening tropical rainforests, destroying peatlands, and having ties to companies behind fires and deforestation in Indonesia.

In 2007 the company lost its Forest Stewardship Council certification and never got it back.

Paper Excellence claims it has no ties with Sinar Mas or Asia Pulp & Paper.

“Paper Excellence is owned solely by Jackson Wijaya and is completely independent of Asia Pulp & Paper,” it said in a statement to CBC. “Nobody other than Jackson has ever been or is the ultimate owner or controller of any of the companies in Paper Excellence.”

But who really knows?

Beyond a bland corporate profile on a website, little is known about the company, its CEO and owner, how Paper Excellence is managed, and who funds it.

And that troubles forestry watchdogs like Shane Moffat of Greenpeace Canada.

“It’s not normal for a company that has such a huge impact on such a vast area of forests, which goes to the heart of Canadian identity in so many ways … that a company with such impact wouldn’t have transparency,” Moffatt told CBC.