A logging blockade by the Algonquins of Lac Simon and Winneway is forcing the forestry giant Domtar to shut down two sawmills – one in Malartic and another near Val d’Or – on November 19.
The blockade checkpoint was set up August 30 over the lack of longterm forestry management plan.
The Algonquins want the provincial government to negotiate an agreement similar to the Cree-Quebec Paix des Braves deal. They are particularly interested in the forestry section that deals with consultations. These provisions call for consultations with Cree families trapping in proposed logging zones before companies are allowed to go in and cut. The Cree agreement also designates areas that are off-limits to cutting as well as special wildlife areas.
Chief Steve Mathias of Winneway said forestry has huge impacts on his peoples’ traditional ways of life. “The government isn’t as interested as we are to work out some kind of agreement based on principles of mutual respect,” said Mathias. “Since we started to put pressure on the government and the industry we never received one call from Domtar. We are not against development. We’re open to that but not at any cost.”
Domtar spokesman Richard Decarries said the company is working hard to come up with solutions. “We would like to see this resolved as quickly as possible,” Decarries said.
But Lac Simon Chief Daniel Pienne observed that “Domtar never gave us one call since we put up the checkpoint. They delayed the long-term decisions.”
Domtar wasn’t the only one under attack as Pienne took the Quebec government to task. “We don’t agree with the kind of treatment we get from the Quebec government,” said Pienne. “We never get straight answers from them. As a result our people said, ‘Let’s stick to our position until we get a satisfying answer.’”
Pienne added that he is open to meeting with government and industry officials. “We want to be included in every kind of project that will benefit our children,” he said. “We also want to be consulted in whatever forestry activities are going on in our territories.”