It goes without saying, but there has to be a balance between environmental protection and economic interests, particularly in Northern Ontario. The economies of Northern towns and sensitive ecosystems depend on it. However, that balance was called into question this week by Resolute Forest Products, which pulled out of negotiations on the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement over how much land to set aside for conservation.
While environmentalists accused Resolute of not living up to its promises to protect habitat for caribou, the company said “draconian” demands by environmental groups would have forced the closure of multiple mills and multiple projects in both Ontario and Quebec.
Two of those projects in Northwestern Ontario — the restart of the Ignace sawmill and a new sawmill project in Atikokan — would have been shelved, and a Fort Frances paper mill would have closed, the company said, if it agreed to environmentalists’ terms.
Resolute said it put forward proposals for more protected areas, including an additional 204,000 hectares of forest for conservation in Northern Ontario, but it wasn’t enough for environmentalists. Company spokesman Seth Kursman said that the company “was not about to negotiate people’s livelihoods away.”
“Many communities have already been hit by the forest industry crisis, (so) we could not unilaterally support such measures,” he said. Read the rest of this entry »
Bill Gallagher says First Nations can cite “honourable management” in Ring of Fire negotiations
A strategist and lawyer argues the recent court ruling against Grassy Narrows should actually be considered a victory for First Nations.
On Monday, Ontario’s Court of Appeal said the provincial government has the authority to issue logging permits on Grassy Narrows traditional territory, overturning a previous Superior Court decision that had sided with the First Nation.
But lawyer Bill Gallagher said the ruling also defines Ontario’s duty to consult with First Nations on the use of traditional land, and sets out “major obligations” for the Crown — a clarification he said has been missing until now.
“I think it’s a significant win,” Gallagher said, pointing to the court decision’s wording about how the province must use “honourable management” when dealing with traditional First Nations territories.
The ruling states that Ontario “cannot take up lands so as to deprive the First Nation signatories of a meaningful right to harvest in their traditional territories.” It also says the government must consult with First Nations. “That is a pretty pro-native set of rules that the crown now has to follow,” Gallagher said. Read the rest of this entry »
Grassy Narrows received a major setback in its pursuit of controlling logging within its traditional territory on Monday.
The Ontario Court of Appeal has decided the wording of Treaty 3 does not prevent the Ontario government from issuing logging licences within the band’s traditional territory; overturning a lower court’s decision from 2011 which ruled the province could not do so because it impinged on Grassy Narrows’ treaty-protected rights to hunt and fish.
“We’re quite disappointed in hearing that the appeal was allowed and it was not in our favour,” said Grassy Narrows’ Chief Simon Fobister. “We’re definitely going to have to sit down with our legal counsel, the band council and the trapper (who originally brought the lawsuit) to review the decision … We’ll have to weigh our options and decide if we are going to appeal this to the Supreme Court of Canada.
“We knew that (going to the Supreme Court) was going to end up being an option regardless of whoever won the case, and we’re going to be making that decision in the next little bit.”
Monday’s decision means the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources has the sole jurisdiction to grant logging permits, including the one it granted to Abitibi-Consolidated Inc. (now called Resolute Forestry Products) in 1997 for a clear-cutting operation in the Whiskey Jack Forest inside Grassy Narrows’ territory, which caused the many years of litigation that lead to this point. Read the rest of this entry »
TIMMINS – With changes to Ontario’s forest regulations looming on the horizon, municipalities across the North are intensifying efforts to get the government to hear them out.
Earlier this week, the City of Timmins supported a resolution by the City of Kenora for what an associated report called “real sustainable forest management.”
The Kenora resolution, based on a backgrounder report written by the Ontario Forest Industries Association (OFIA) and the Northwestern Ontario Municipalities Association (NOMA), denounces some of the measures of the provincial government’s Endangered Species Act (ESA).
It states that less than half of 1% of Ontario’s forests are harvested each year, and that strict renewal plans must be in place before harvest.
It goes on to read, “Ontario’s forest sector already provides for the needs of species at risk through the Crown Forest Sustainability Act (CFSA), and that the forest sector is required to continuously update their management practices to be consistent with provincial recovery strategies developed under the Endangered Species Act.” Read the rest of this entry »
While the decision in the Grassy Narrows versus Ontario legal battle, expected sometime this year, will impact treaty rights for First Nations across the country, one of Grassy Narrows’ closest neighbours may be the most affected by the decision.
Wabauskang Treaty #3 First Nation is in the midst of its own legal struggle over resource development on its traditional territory, since it took gold mining company Rubicon Minerals to court in December 2012.
Wabauskang Chief Leslie Cameron said his community is looking to the decision in the Grassy Narrows case, called the Keewatin decision, for clarity in its own legal situation.
“We were heavily involved in the Keewatin appeal and made arguments in support of Grassy Narrows and that support our own case against Rubicon and Ontario,” Cameron said. “The Court of Appeal seemed really interested in our arguments. We’re expecting to win.”
Even though Grassy Narrows is targeting the forestry industry and Wabauskang the mineral sector, both conflicts essentially argue the same point – that Ontario has no jurisdiction to approve projects on First Nations land, since the federal government oversees First Nations issues. Read the rest of this entry »
TIMMINS - Like many Northerners, John Kapel doesn’t like the idea of urban southern Ontarians having such a strong influence on Northern resources.
“We should be the ones dictating what we want to do with our North up here, not people in southern Ontario who sit in a cubicle and don’t even have a clue what a freakin’ poplar or birch tree is,” said Kapel, owner of Little John Enterprises sawmill in Timmins.
The province’s much-maligned Caribou Conservation Plan has been cited by both local industry and municipal leaders as just another product of the southern Ontario’s influence on Queen’s Park.
“We’re going to lose 25% of our forest” for industrial use within the Abitibi River region because of this plan, Kapel said. “It’s just sad that we as Northern Ontarian people have to put up with this B.S. from southern Ontario. It’s pathetic.”
The Ontario Forest Industries Association has had to tiptoe in explaining why it was encouraging Northerners to support recent changes to the Endangered Species Act (ESA) despite its encompassing of the controversial caribou plan.
The Ministry of Natural Resources had outlined new measures under the ESA in an Environmental Registry posting. The period for inviting public input ended Monday. Read the rest of this entry »
TIMMINS – The Federation Of Northern Ontario Municipalities (FONOM) wants citizens to speak up. The organization wants the help of Northerners to help ensure the economic potential of the boreal forest isn’t stifled by increasingly expanding changes driven by special interest groups.
Al Spacek, mayor of Kapuskasing and head of FONOM, feels that current environmental practices have more than proven themselves as not only viable. But forward thinking and any further rigidity will only result in the strangulation of a potential economic boom in the North.
“What we really have been emphasizing is the fact that the current legislation under what is called the Crown Forest Capability Act is more than adequate to protect our forests,” he said. “The industry has developed around that act, which is very detailed in how we need need to take care of the environment and we are concerned that the environmental groups are going to be successful in adding more bureaucracy and more restrictions on what forestry companies have to comply with.”
With area forests currently thriving at the same size and density that they did 100 years ago, before major settlement. Spacek said that further changes will only serve to flush the province’s economy further down the drain.
“The MNR is currently asking for input on the the act itself and this whole question of whether or not we need more protection,” he said. “This is why we are encouraging people to get on the record saying that the current legislation is accurate and viable.” Read the rest of this entry »
The anti-Keystone XL protest planned for the White House this weekend is just part of an ongoing NGO-led global battle against economic development, and jobs.
Nobody is arguing against prudent science-based protection of the environment. However, NGO campaigns tend not merely to be based on wild misrepresentation, but also coercive, ideologically driven, and economically challenged. And yet big corporations appear 100% behind them, or at least are far too scared to speak out.
Although the current focus of NGO demonization is Keystone XL, the forest industry has been under siege for years, and by exactly the same groups as are trying to take down the oil sands. These groups include the Natural Resources Defense Council, whose self-righteous gurus were put under the microscope by the Post’s Claudia Cattaneo on Tuesday. Also prominent in the forest war-for-poverty are Greenpeace and the WWF. Read the rest of this entry »
TIMMINS - Caribou conservation efforts for the Abitibi River Forest will cost local forestry companies more than $100 million in reduced annual gross sales. That is collectively a quarter in lost profits for the seven mills and six independent operators that have harvesting rights on the Abitibi River Forest.
Local communities are similarly expected to be impacted by immediate reductions of 20 to 25% in harvest areas, according to the 10-year Abitibi River Forest management plan which comes into effect April 1.
The plan acknowledges, the reduction “will potentially provide less economic benefits … due to direct correlation with available harvest volumes. As a result, the lower volumes translate into reduced manufacture of primary products, less taxes and less employment opportunities.”
The mills that operate on the Abitibi River Forest include the Tembec mill in Cochrane, the AbitibiBowater paper mill in Iroquois Falls, Little John Enterprises in Timmins and EACOM Timber Corporation’s sawmills in both Timmins and Gogama.
It is noted in the plan that local mills may not have “the operational flexibility they have been accustomed to in recent years, nor does it allow for significant increases in primary production capacity.” Read the rest of this entry »
A legal appeal with national implications on Aboriginal treaty rights now rests in the hands of the judges after arguments in Grassy Narrows versus Ontario closed last week.
The legal battle between Ontario and Grassy Narrows First Nation over clear-cut logging on Grassy Narrows’ traditional territory has been ongoing for over a decade. In 2011 an Ontario judge ruled in favour of the First Nation, essentially saying that Ontario did have not the authority to authorize logging that violated treaty rights.
Ontario’s appeal of the decision was “hard fought,” said Grassy Narrows’ legal representative Robert Janes. “This will be a precedent-setting case,” Janes said, adding that a decision may take anywhere from four to seven months given the case’s complexity and the likelihood it will go to the Supreme Court of Canada.
Ontario argues that the province has jurisdiction over treaty rights, which allows it to authorize logging or other activities that may violate the treaties. But Grassy Narrows’ lawyers respond that only the federal government has the jurisdiction over treaty rights, so that Ontario cannot approve projects that impose on the treaties. The original court case was initiated by three Grassy Narrows’ trappers in 2000. Read the rest of this entry »
COCHRANE – While many believe forestry is on the verge of a major comeback, there is a fear Northeastern Ontario won’t benefit from the upturn if provincial legislation remains unchanged. Northern leaders hope, however, Natural Resources Minister Michael Gravelle will intervene.
The situation was discussed at length by community leaders during last week’s meeting of the Northeastern Ontario Municipal Association (NEOMA).
As part of the Endangered Species Act, the provincial government is looking to protect massive amounts of forest to preserve caribou habitat. One of the key areas of discussion is the Abibiti River Forest region. As the legislation sits, 65% of the region would be off limits to wood harvesting.
But an amended agreement reached between representatives of industry, environmental groups and Northern leaders would reduce that to 20%. The problem is the Ministry of Natural Resources doesn’t currently recognize the compromise solution reached.
The compromise agreement allows harvests to continue where there is usable wood and little chance of caribou coming back, while protecting areas where the species is known to be present and little lumber-worthy forest. Read the rest of this entry »
Greenpeace’s latest stunt shows it has no interest in responsible development
This week, Greenpeace issued a report, Boreal Alarm: A Wake-up Call for Action in Canada’s Endangered Forests. The radical NGO thus continues its leading role as a fount of boreal alarmism. However, there are encouraging signs that a previously too-pliable forest industry may at last be waking up to the idea that appeasing such organizations is a slippery slope.
Three years ago, when the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement — which ostensibly sanitized a 29-million-hectare swath of Canadian forest from development — was signed, I suggested in this space that it was a dark day for Canada. The agreement, between members of the Forest Products Association of Canada and a group of nine environmental NGOs including Greenpeace and ForestEthics, came after a campaign of hysterical misinformation and “Do Not Buy” campaigns. The U.S.-based Pew Foundation had not merely “brokered” the deal, it had also supported the NGO campaign, a flagrant case of being both player and referee.
The deal confirmed that intimidation worked, and set a terrible precedent of corporate appeasement. It created the impression that environmental laws were non-existent or severely lacking, and that without their feet being held to the proverbial fire, forest companies would devastate Canada’s natural heritage willy-nilly. In fact, neither the boreal forest nor the caribou — the campaign’s “charismatic megafauna” — were, or are, under any realistic threat.
All logged land is reforested, vast areas are off limits from development, and the great majority of the boreal is economically inaccessible in any case. Read the rest of this entry »
RESOLUTE Forest Products has made two major announcements in Northwestern Ontario in recent days. The company is idling a kraft mill and paper machine at its pulp and paper plant in Fort Frances, due to what it calls challenging market conditions.
The Montreal-based forestry company said it is closing the mill indefinitely as the market for specialty printing papers is expected to remain tenuous. About 239 employees will be affected.
Within days, Resolute announced plans to build an industrial wood pellet plant in Thunder Bay that will turn residual material into a source of renewable energy. The company said construction of the $10-million plant is expected to begin shortly and should be completed in 2014. It will hire 24 new employees.
Herein lies the changing nature of forestry. One market is fading just as another emerges. But let us not assume paper is a thing of the past. And let us not count on burning yet more fossil fuels as the answer to our energy needs.
Fort Frances is complicated by plant limitations and the decision by its main kraft pulp customer in the U.S. to buy elsewhere at less cost. Here again the Canadian dollar’s high value hurts Canadian exporters. Read the rest of this entry »
The Toronto Star has the largest circulation in Canada. The paper has an enormous impact on federal and Ontario politics as well as shaping public opinion.
Hard to imagine, I know: A desert of a place where floods were common, farmland turned to blowing sand and forest fires were nearly a daily occurrence. Growing food on much of this land was more than a challenge, it was downright unproductive. Many natural disasters were accepted as “part of the price” paid for living in a progressive land where the hand of man was free to take trees without thought or consideration to the long-term effects. This was our beloved Ontario about a century ago and, frankly, there really was no plan.
When this land was “opened up,” a settler and his family was required by the Crown to clear the trees off of it, reserving the very best wood (the giant virgin white pines and sycamores) for the government to haul off to Great Britain, where they were valued for use as ship masts and planks. Naïvely, it was thought that this single-minded approach was a good idea. Land was cleared most everywhere, except in the hardest to reach places.
Between 1790 and the early 1900s, Ontario was denuded of all of its existing forests through the efforts of lumbermen and farmers. The results were devastating. Wildlife disappeared, streams and rivers dried up, and sand and top soil blew away.
In 1904, an ambitious professor from the University of Toronto in forestry proposed to province that it would be a good idea to establish an aggressive replanting program in the marginally productive areas of the province. Read the rest of this entry »
Negotiations over land dispute in heart of the boreal forest are stalling
It’s zero hour for leaders in the Atikamekw First Nation. Last month, chiefs in three impoverished Atikamekw communities gave the provincial government an ultimatum: resolve a 33-year-old land dispute by Aug. 30 or face blockades on logging roads across the Haute Mauricie region.
With negotiations stalling and the deadline expired, groups in Opitciwan, Manawan and Wemotaci must decide whether to resume disruptions on roads used by forestry giant Kruger Products.
About 30 people in the Aboriginal reserves set up checkpoints to prevent Kruger’s trucks from carrying lumber through their territory in June and early July. They also blocked all CN Rail line traffic passing through Atikamekw land.
Grand chiefs in the Aboriginal towns said they wanted a bigger stake in the management of natural resources on their reserves as well as a “James Bay Cree” style agreement with the provincial government. Read the rest of this entry »