Large clearcuts planned for Grassy Narrows territory
Grassy Narrow is raising concerns about Ontario’s plans to proceed with large clearcuts in the Treaty #3 community’s traditional territory.
Ontario had agreed not to allow logging without the consent of the community in its territory in the Whiskey Jack Forest north of the English River while an 11-year legal action winds its way through the court system, but this past December the province made public, without the community’s support, a new Whiskey Jack Long Term Management Direction (LTMD) calling for large clearcuts in the community’s territory north and south of the English River over the next 10 years.
“The government is beginning to recognize that it is wrong to allow logging in our territory against our will,” said Grassy Narrows Chief Simon Fobister. “But Ontario continues to make plans behind our backs for destructive clearcut logging on the lands we have always used and cared for. This must stop.”
Ontario made the agreement in exchange for the staying of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice’s landmark August 2011 judgment in favour of Grassy Narrows until the appeal process is completed. The court found that Ontario does not have the power to take away the rights in Treaty 3 by authorizing industrial activity including logging.
“We have struggled for many years to save our way of life in the face of clearcut logging, which has contaminated our waters and destroyed our lands,” said Joseph Fobister, one of the Grassy Narrows trappers who initiated the legal action. “We cannot go back to the old way of business where decisions were imposed on our people and our land with devastating consequences for our health and culture.”
Grassy Narrows initially rejected the new LTMD this past December. The LTMD is part of a Forest Management Plan the Ministry of Natural Resources plans to put into effect on April 1.
“This document was developed without our participation or consent, and entirely outside the good faith negotiations we have undertaken with MNR since the 2008 Process Agreement,”
Fobister said about the LTMD in Dec. 2011. “It sets the stage for more clearcutting throughout our traditional lands, contrary to our treaty and inherent rights. And we have not given our consent.”
Robert Janes, a Grassy Narrows lawyer, said the province’s agreement not to allow logging without community consent north of the English River was “a big departure from the usual government insistence on business as usual” during lengthy appeals.
“It speaks to the strength of Grassy Narrows’ stand against unwanted clearcut logging from a legal perspective and also from a moral, and political viewpoint,” Janes said.
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