The Cree international campaign on forestry heated up last week in Washington.
Cree officials addressed a rally of about 100 people against Canada’s forestry practices outside the White House last week.
Afterwards, they joined a British Columbia First Nations alliance and environmental groups from the Ü.S. and Canada at a press conference to denounce Canada’s weak environmental rules and forestry policies.
The Crees and B.C. people also met with U.S. congressional staff and handed in submissions to U.S. trade officials, who are about to start renegotiating the Canada-U.S. Softwood Lumber Agreement.
“It’s obvious that the fate of the Crees is linked to the fate of the trees,” said Romeo Saganash, director of Quebec relations for the Grand Council of the Crees.
“If there are no trees, there are no Crees. Our cultural survival is at stake here.”
“We’re down here in the U.S. to make sure we get some form of protection and to seek support from American politicians,” said Chief Arthur Manuel, of the B.C. Interior Alliance, which represents five First Nations that cover a quarter of the province.
The First Nations and environmentalists said Canada’s limp environmental rules and coziness with the forestry industry are not only damaging wildlife and Native culture, but also amount to an unfair subsidy for Canadian timber exports to the U.S.
They’ve made an alliance with U.S. industry to put Canada’s environmental record on trial during coming negotiations on the softwood lumber agreement.
“We’re subsidizing the British Columbia forestry industry based on the fact that they don’t have to deal with our Aboriginal title,” said Manuel. “It allows Canadian timber to be sold dirt cheap in the U.S.”