Another important victory for the people of Grassy Narrows

Ontario Minister of Natural Resources David Orazietti has announced that – for at least one year – the province will not license new logging on the traditional territory of the Grassy Narrows First Nation in northwestern Ontario.

The Minister’s statement follows the latest announcement by a major company that it wants nothing to do with wood logged without the consent of the people of Grassy Narrows. EACOM, which owns sawmills throughout the region, announced in March that it would not process wood from Grassy Narrows.

The people of Grassy Narrows have long called for a moratorium on industrial development on their territory, to protect the land for traditional uses and to allow the community the opportunity to make its own decisions about how the land should be used.

There has been no clear cut logging at Grassy Narrows since 2008, as the result of previous decisions by major corporations not to log or handle wood from Grassy Narrows.

Facing a community-led anti-logging blockade and other public pressure, the province entered into high level talks with the First Nation over the future of forest. Despite this, the province has never committed to obtain the consent of Grassy Narrows before licensing new logging.

The province’s latest forest management plan, adopted in December 2013, calls for renewed clear cut logging in the territory. But in a written statement released to the media late last month, the Minister of Natural Resources said that there would be no logging in the Grassy Narrows territory “until at least April 1, 2015.”

This is an important victory. Thanks to everyone who wrote letters or made calls to the provincial government. Critically, however, the province has still not recognized the right of the people of Grassy Narrows to be part of the decision making process.

Speaking for Grassy Narrows, Simon Fobister said the Minister’s decision “gives us time to work on an agreeable solution that respects the best interests of both sides.” However, Fobister also pointed out that “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?” 

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