Forestry Giant pulls out of Grassy Narrows

Posted by admin on Jun 4th, 2008

By BRYAN MEADOWS. Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Forest industry giant AbitibiBowater Inc. is pulling out of the Whiskey Jack Forest north of Kenora.  The company says it has more available and accessible fibre elsewhere, and that it can‘t wait four more years for the province and Grassy Narrows First Nation to come to an agreement on acceptable logging practices there. “We plan to discontinue the use of the Whiskey Jack Forest while the government and Grassy Narrows conducts their negotiations,” company spokesman Jean-Philippe Cote said Tuesday.

Last month, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Grassy Narrows (Asubpeeschoseewagong Netum Anishinabek) signed a memorandum of understanding aimed at starting new talks on forest management, and creating a “positive, long-term relationship.”

The breakthrough followed six months of discussions between Grassy Narrows and former Supreme Court justice Frank Iacobucci, who was retained to advise Natural Resources Minister Donna Cansfield on the ongoing logging dispute there.

Disputes over logging and clear-cutting in the band‘s traditional territory have resulted in several protests by Grassy Narrows and environmental groups, and the longest running road blockade in Canada.  While AbitibiBowater “is in no way critical of the negotiations,” Cote said, “we could not wait four more years.”

“The flexibility of the new company gives us an alternative wood supply (for our mills),” he said, noting that “there is a lot of unused fibre out there” due to the downturn in the forest industry.

Cote added that the company supports Grassy Narrows in its negotiations with the province as a long-standing user of the Whiskey Jack Forest.
Covering more than a million hectares, the forest is managed under a sustainable forest licence held by AbitibiBowater Inc.

In that regard, the company has asked the Ministry of Natural Resources to take back the forest licence and “to find a more appropriate management structure” for the forestland north of Kenora, Cote said.

Under the memorandum, the MNR and Grassy Narrows have entered into a short-term working agreement to improve the co-operation and understanding of sustainable management in the Whiskey Jack Forest that respects the rights and interests of others.

Committees and working groups are to be established to carry out specific activities over the next four years, such as:

  • Completing a traditional land use study.
  • Completing an environmental inventory that includes traditional knowledge.
  • Identifying economic and capacity-building opportunities to increase the participation of Grassy Narrows First Nation in the forest economy.

• Launching a pilot project to develop ways to integrate Grassy Narrows‘ traditional land uses and areas of cultural significance with forest management activities.


Results of this work will be used as the basis for negotiating a long-term agreement for the protection, management and use of the Whiskey Jack Forest, the ministry said.

About 800 people live at Grassy Narrows, about 80 kilometres northeast of Kenora.

In a report last fall, Amnesty International said Grassy Narrows had suffered repeated human-rights violations and called on the province to respect a proposed moratorium on logging, which is also carried out by Weyerhaeuser.

Activist groups have staged numerous protests in support of Grassy Narrows in recent years.

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