The Paix des Braves Agreement is being called into question by forestry company Chantiers Chibougamau as it held a protest blocking Route 167 in mid-March. A looming cut in wood allocation had protestors citing the 2002 Quebec-Cree deal as the primary reason for their troubles.
The blockade was erected on March I0 by Chantiers Chibougamau and supporters, including Chibougamau Mayor Donald Bubar, fearing a 60% cut in the amount of wood allocated to them by April I under their current agreement.
“We don’t have a problem with the Paix des Braves,” Rejean Girard, spokesman for the Groupe d’action pour la sauvegarde de Chantiers Chibougamau, told the Nation.
“One thing I would say is, it was an agreement signed between the Quebecoise and the Cree Nation, but it was signed for all Quebecers. So what we ask is that the forestry companies that fall under the Paix des Braves territory share with all the forestry companies in Quebec.”
Girard, along with hundreds of Chibougamau residents and forestry workers, stood fast on Route 167, only allowing cars and light trucks through, thus reducing the flow of transport vehicles and supplies to Mistissini.
“We want the (Quebec) minister (of Natural Resources) to come see us and guarantee us that our supply won’t be reduced on the first of April and that we are also guaranteed a fair share of forestry. We want an immediate response,” he said.
At one point on March 13, Surete du Quebec police threatened to take down the illegal barricades. It caught the protestors by surprise because for the three days previous there was no mention of the blockade being illegal.
Mistissini Chief John Longchap was in constant contact with Chibougamau Mayor Donald Bubar throughout the ordeal.
“I don’t agree with these people using the Paix des Braves as a reason for the blockade,” said Chief Longchap. “We have allocations that were given to Mistissini through the Paix des Braves. We also have allocations that we harvested on an annual basis that have gone to Chantiers.”
“So whatever they lost as a result of the different modalities under the forestry regime of the Paix des Braves, they’ve been able to compensate from what we feed their mill. It’s not quite accurate in my opinion. The right picture is not being presented to the public.”
Longchap admitted the U.S. market slowdown was also hurting the Chantiers Chibougamau company, but he feared for the well-being of his community.
“I think they should open the highway for the safety of the people,” he said. “We’re getting concerned for the welfare of our people. Medical supplies need to get through to those who depend on their medication.”
“There has to be a better way than a blockade for Chantiers to achieve what they’re trying to achieve,” he said. “There has to be other ways for them to get more wood allocation but it doesn’t make sense to us to cut everyone’s throats; they’re cutting their own throats by stopping their own supplies.”
On March 14, the group received an answer from the Quebec Premier’s office, saying that it would bypass Natural Resources Minister Claude Bechard and sit down to directly negotiate with Chantiers Chibougamau. The blockade was lifted shortly thereafter.
“We’re hopeful that we can come to a solution now,” said Chibougamau Mayor Donald Bubar.
“Chantiers Chibougamau is prepared to do its part, but it shouldn’t have to pay more than other forestry companies.”
Mayor Bubar said that when the Paix des Braves was signed in 2002, Chantiers Chibougamau lost its harvesting territory of Saguenay-Lac St. Jean. The new rules under the Paix des Braves meant Chantiers had to adhere to cutting in a mosaic fashion in a larger percentage of its allotted area than it has had to in the past, reducing its allocation.
“Our logging company should not have to bear the brunt of restrictions,” Bubar said of Chantiers Chibougamau, which, he added, uses “the entire tree with little or no loss.”
Bubar did not see the blockade as a problem for Mistissini, but certain truck drivers, including an Ultramar gas truck driver, refused to go in on their own accord.
If the province were to cut Chantiers’ allocation by 60% on April 1, the economic impact on Chibougamau would have been a loss of 700 jobs and $50 million annually, according to the Mayor.
“There’s no animosity towards the community of Mistissini from Chibougamau,” said Mayor Bubar. “We just want to move ahead and be treated fairly by the province.”