The owner of one of the largest logging companies in James Bay says Cree complaints about clearcutting don’t worry him and are probably just a ploy to get more money.
“Let them come,” said Yves Barrette, owner of Barrette-Chapais Ltée, when told that Crees have launched a campaign to change forestry practices.
“If those guys do something maybe it’s because we’re doing something wrong. But for the last 20 years, no one said we were doing anything wrong,” he said. “Maybe the Crees are doing that for something else, but that’s not going to affect me.”
Regional and local Cree officials have set up a Forestry Working Group that includes trappers and environment officers. They have met several times since last winter.
Last month, Crees accompanied Quebec’s Deputy Minister of Natural Resources on a tour of logging sites in the Cree Territory. The tour also stopped at the Barrette sawmill in Chapais, where 400 people are employed; none are Cree.
Barrette suggested the Cree forestry campaign may simply be a tactic to get compensation money. “Sometimes they bring it up because they want something else—money,” he said.
He claimed relations between his company and Crees are good but acknowledged that things can easily go sour. “It could be a serious problem atany time depending on how the Indians feel. We have a good relationship now,” he said.
“I don’t want to wake up a giant here.”
Barrette’s father started the company in Lebel-sur-Quévillon in 1965. In 1975, the company relocated to Chapais and the younger Barrette has owned it ever since.
Barrette expressed surprise at the timing of the Cree campaign because, he insisted, his company has cut back on its logging. He said new provincial rules have forced him to leave more trees standing. Asked if it has cut into profits, he replied, “Oh definitely… We’re here to cut lumber.”
But he said he can live with the new rules, even if he doesn’t always agree with them. “It’s the price to pay because we have to live together. We have to leave some trees up there for the moose.”
He added, “But there’s no moose.”
A Natural Resources official who was asked to comment on the forestry campaign said the problem is a lack of communication between Crees and logging companies.
“There needs to be better communication to make sure the concerns of the trappers are made aware at the forestry office,” said Jean-François Gravel, the official in charge of forestry policy in Native territories.
“We don’t have an acceptable communication system. We have the concerns of the Grand Council, but I think we miss the real concerns of the trappers.”
He said Quebec has no plans to reduce the amount of trees it permits loggers to cut in James Bay, although he acknowledged changes are needed in forestry practices. “It’s not a question of volume of trees, but the discussion for the short-term is to have a better process of consultation and better distribution of operations.”
According to a new rule introduced in March, loggers must leave at least 30 percent of every trapline with stands of trees at least 21 feet high. “Perhaps it’s FVVBBh^not enough, but I think that’s a very good step,” Gravel said.