During a week when the Ontario professional foresters are gathered in Timmins, the province is taking it on the chin over plans to reform forestry tenure.
Both the Federation of Northern Ontario Municipalities (FONOM) and the Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) issued statements Wednesday condemning the government over Bill 151 — The Ontario Forest Tenure Modernization Act.
The day before that, Timmins-James Bay MPP Gilles Bisson challenged Northern Development, Mines and Forestry Minister Michael Gravelle over what the local MPP felt was a lack of consultation being conducted in Northern Ontario.
The government recently rejected calls for public consultation meetings in the North. Instead, it opted to hold two meetings — both of them in Toronto.
FONOM president Al Spacek, who is also mayor of the Town of Kapuskasing, attending one of those hearing and addressed the Standing Committee on General Government in Toronto, expressing the concerns of its member municipalities over Bill 151.
“Some of the major concerns with respect to this legislation are with the seeming arbitrary increases in government authority which allow it the arbitrary discretion to cancel existing wood supply agreements or licenses for any reason,” said Spacek.
The concern stems from phrasing within the bill that would empower the provincial government to revoke a wood allocation if “the party holding the agreement, licence or commitment is not optimally using the forest resources.”
Spacek said concerns are further aggravated by the fact “there is no recourse for affected parties as this bill removes existing rights of notice and appeal, and any current options around legal recourse if wood is unfairly taken away.
“We believe that Bill 151, if implemented as drafted, would deter investment and employment because of the uncertainty the Bill itself creates.
Spacek said another significant concern to FONOM members has been the lack of consultation in the North about this legislation and its potential effects on Northern communities.
“Many of our members feel that this legislation is being rammed through,” he said.
Lack of consultation was a concern echoed by NAN leader Grand Chief Stan Beardy.
“It is very clear that Ontario does not take the concerns of First Nations seriously with regards to the forestry tenure reform process as, yet again, Ontario solicits input, then unilaterally makes decisions without consideration of those who are directly impacted,” said Beardy.
In a statement issued Wednesday, Beardy wrote that MNDMF “reneged on commitments” made to NAN in the introduction of Bill 151 as it does not contain information on working with First Nations, nor does it give any recognition to Aboriginal and treaty rights.
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