rabble blogs are the personal pages of some of Canada's most insightful progressive activists and commentators. All opinions belong to the writer; however, writers are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new bloggers -- contact us for details.

Grassy Narrows to resume blockade if clearcut logging operation starts

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support rabble.ca today for as little as $1 per month!

As previously mentioned, the Ontario government has approved plans for another decade of clearcut logging in Grassy Narrows Territory against the will of this Indigenous community. The Grassy Narrows First Nation (or Asubpeeschoseewagong First Nation as it is traditionally called in Anishinaabek) and its community members have been involved in the longest-running Indigenous blockade in Cananda for over 10 years; but, the history of injustice, colonialism and contempt for the community is much longer.

Recently, Assembly of First Nations Ontario Regional Chief Stan Beardy has called for an immediate blockade of logging operations if the Ontario government's plan to allow clear-cutting of mature trees within the Grassy Narrows First Nation territory goes forward.

"At the end of the day, if we're forced to take direct action that's what will happen," said Beardy, who represents the chiefs of the 133 First Nations in the province of Ontario.

Grassy Narrows First Nation is known for holding the longest-running Indigenous logging blockade in Canada and has spent nearly 15 years in court fighting the Ontario government's decision to issue a license for clear-cutting operations in Keewatin, part of the Nation's treaty-protected territory. In 2011 Ontario Superior Court ruled that the province cannot authorize timber and logging if the operations infringe on federal treaty promises protecting aboriginal rights to traditional hunting and trapping. This ruling has been appealed by Ontario and is expected to be heard at the Supreme Court of Canada on May 15, 2014.

"The blockade was put on hold because we were under the impression that with the lawsuit pending, all [logging] activities had been put on hold, but unfortunately it looks like that's not happening," Beardy said.

Despite the Superior Court ruling, in December Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynn unilaterally approved a forest management to further clear-cut mature trees with the Grassy Narrows First Nation territory without community consultation or consent.

"The duty to consult" with First Nations on issues and projects that affect them and their lands is a legal requirement in Canada, "but they ignore the Constitution and legislation to consult with the legal holder of traditional lands," Beardy said. "So if the logging starts up again, so will the blockage. Unfortunately, it seems to be the only way they'll pay attention to us. We tried the political process, we tried having a conversation with them.''

Members of the beleaguered Grassy Narrows First Nation say the Ontario government's logging plans over the years have adversely affected forests in their community and worsened the mercury poisoning issues their citizens have been grappling with for decades.

"Premier Wynne, it is within your power to ensure that the mistakes of the past are not repeated at the expense of another generation of Grassy Narrows children," Grassy Narrows First Nation Chief Simon Fobister said. "I call on you to intervene to repeal this hurtful plan and to ensure that never again will Ontario attempt to force decisions on our people and our lands."

The province's new logging plan would clear-cut much of the remaining mature forest on Grassy Narrows territory. The tree removal not only worsens the effects of mercury poisoning but also threatens the existence of First Nations people culturally, Beardy said.

Clear-cutting violates First Nations treaty rights and the constitutionally protected rights to hunt, fish and trap because it destroys the environment and the animal and fish habitats and the wildlife itself that provides sustenance to the people, Beardy said.

"When First Nations people in Canada look at the [land taken], the residential schools, and now this that has happened to us, we consider it cultural genocide and that's the message we're taking to the international level [at the United Nations] to say that our rights as First Nations people are not respected in Canada," he said.

Fobister said his community has requested a meeting with Ontario Minister of Natural Resources David Orazietti in an effort to reach an understanding on how to move forward.

Although Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government endorsed the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2010, "they consider it an aspirational document, a document with beautiful words," said Beardy. "We're pushing very hard to get Canada to adhere to the principle of 'free prior and informed consent.'"

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.

Comments

We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:

Do

  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.

Don't

  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.