- Created on Wednesday, 02 April 2014 14:25
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Toronto - Under intense pressure Minister of Natural Resources David Orazietti has reversed his position on logging in Grassy Narrows Territory this year. A logging plan made final by the MNR on December 23rd showed large clearcuts throughout Grassy Narrows Territory scheduled to take effect on April 1st. The Minister now says that no clearcutting will happen this year on a huge area 18 times the size of the City of Toronto (11,304 sq km). The decision comes on the heals of boycotts, a request for environmental assessment from Grassy Narrows, and calls for renewed blockades by Regional Chief Beardy and the Grassy Narrows Youth Group.
In a written statement sent to media on March 26th, Minister Orazietti stated that “no harvesting activity is planned within 60km of Narrows First Nation until at least April 1, 2015.”
This is a complete reversal of his ministry's recent position on this contentious issue.
On February 3rd the CBC reported that "the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources confirmed to CBC by e-mail on January 31st that clear-cut logging would start on April 1st" in Grassy Narrows Territory south of the English River – the half of the Territory closest to the community site which is not subject to Grassy Narrows' Supreme Court case scheduled for May 15th.
“I applaud the Minister for making the right decision and gives us time to work on an agreeable solution that respects the best interests of both sides,” said Chief Simon Fobister. “But the Wynne government is still hanging the threat of a decade of clearcuts over our heads year after year causing great distress for our troubled community. When will Wynne finally promise to respect our voice and commit never to force logging on our community against our will?”
The Minister's decision comes on the heels of a commitment by major regional lumber company EACOM to avoid conflict wood from Grassy Narrows. EACOM's commitment leaves no large operating mills in the region willing to accept conflict softwood from Grassy Narrows Territory. Without a buyer for the softwood it is uneconomical to log the less desirable hardwood which Weyerhaeuser continues to pursue for its Kenora iLevel Timberstrand mill. Weyerhaeuser and Prendiville Industries' Kenora Forest Products (KFP) are the only major regional logging companies left that have not committed to avoid conflict wood from Grassy Narrows. The KFP mill has been closed indefinitely since April 2008.
Grassy Narrows has called for an individual Environmental Assessment of the clearcutting plan, based on scientific evidence that clearcutting is likely to raise mercury levels in fish – an impact that would deepen and prolong the tragedy of mercury poisoning in Grassy Narrows. Under provincial regulations logging cannot begin in Grassy Narrows Territory until the Ministry of the Environment has made a decision on Grassy Narrows' request.
The Toronto Star reported on Tuesday March 25th that a spokesperson for Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources said it is “awaiting a decision from the Ministry of the Environment regarding a request for an individual environmental assessment” before the logging plan goes into effect.
Regional Chief Beardy, and the Grassy Narrows Youth Group, have recently called for new blockades and direct action if Ontario attempts to force clearcut logging on Grassy Narrows.
Premier Wynne visited Grassy Narrows in the summer of 2012 as Minister of Aboriginal Affairs, saying that she wanted to rebuild Ontario's relationship with Grassy Narrows to "get it right." Instead Ontario has unilaterally pursued this clear-cut logging plan against the will of the community and without consent.
The plan sets out a schedule to clear-cut much of what little mature forest remains on Grassy Narrows Territory after decades of large-scale industrial logging. This will further erode the Aboriginal, Treaty Rights and the ability of the community to sustain their families and to practice their culture through fishing, hunting, trapping, medicine harvesting, ceremony and healing for all generations.
"Premier Wynne, it is within your power to ensure that the mistakes of the past are not repeated at the expense of another generation of Grassy Narrows children," said Grassy Narrows Chief Simon Fobister. "I call on you to ensure that never again will Ontario attempt to force decisions on our people and our lands."
The Supreme Court of Canada will hear Grassy Narrows' case against Ontario on May 15th, in a legal action which argues that Ontario does not have the right to unilaterally permit logging on Grassy Narrows land north of the English River due to promises made by Canada in Treaty 3.
The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, to which Canada is a signatory, requires that the free, prior, and informed consent of Indigenous peoples is given before industrial activity is permitted on their traditional lands.
Grassy Narrows is the site of the longest running native logging blockade in Canadian history – an ongoing grassroots action started in December 2002 that recently celebrated its 11th anniversary. Grassy Narrows youth, elders and women put their bodies on the line to stop logging trucks from passing.
Logging in Grassy Narrows Territory has been suspended since June 2008 when Boise and AbitibiBowater (now Resolute) bowed to the pressure of protests, blockades, boycotts, and legal actions by ceasing to source wood from Grassy Narrows Territory without consent and surrendering their license on the Whiskey Jack Forest.