The World Conservation Congress came to Montreal October 17 to 21. The Grand Council of the Crees was on hand with a booth to represent Cree concerns with forestry.

Along with a seven-minute video called Trees and Crees was a pamphlet entitled the same. The Cree message was clear and concise. The Crees argued that forestry development in the Cree traditional lands is not sustainable and it interferes with Cree traditional lifestyles. In total, the amount of forest that has been cut since 1975 is roughly equal to the amount of land flooded by the La Grande reservoir. Many of the pictures the GCCQ present are grim, but there is hope, says Paul Dixon, one of the Crees on hand at the booth.

“When I first started coming to these types of events I had to argue my case. Now people are coming up and agreeing with me. It’s been a change from five years ago,” Dixon claimed.

On hand for the festivities were many other presentors including other Native groups from across the world, governments, and of course, industry. One of the industries present was the pulp-and-paper people, who proudly displayed the new industry standards. “These are the new standards that will apply across Canada,” stated the PR spokesperson. When I asked him who the enforcing agency was, he seemed shocked. “These are voluntary standards, all standards are voluntary!” was his reply.

Among the other concerns raised was the proposed European ban on wild fur. Documentation was available showing humane trap research and the results (Magnum and Coni-bear styles are predominantly used by Crees).
Documentation also pointed out that the Europeans were never the ones who started the fur trade, but that Natives traded between communities and had extensive trading routes before the Vikings even landed here.

One Native presentation by the Haida discusses the animal-rights movement and the fact that it has become a profitable industry. It also asks where the money is going. No humane shelters have been founded, better methods of animal husbandry researched, protected wildlife zones have not been created, research has not been funded to support healthy and sustainable wildlife populations, no endangered species have been saved (seals, though cruelly treated, were never endangered). On the other side, cures have been found for diseases by using animals for testing.

Instead, the Old Masset Village Council of the Haida Gwai say that public donations pay for overly high salaries and travel to exotic places for professional organizers, who ultimately “ignore science and professional wildlife managers and will use images of cuddly little animals in order to demonize the hunter and his tools.”

Other booths included different indigenous peoples from around the world. Many Native displays showed off their culture and environment as can be seen by the photos. Some things were interesting such as the leaf plate. It was a substitute for the disposable paper plates that we use today.

Neil Diamond and myself enjoyed the dried smoked salmon which the Haida Gwai booth was giving out, but unfortunately didn’t arrive in time for the smoked caribou and musk-ox jerky. Oh well, there’s always the next conference.

More than 100 resolutions were passed, including one for environmental protection of Ontario’s Temagami wilderness. Mining and forestry have been having problems with protesters, Native and non-Native alike. They’ll also review the formula for determining endangered marine life. Atlantic cod appeared on the “red list” of threatened species this year. Canada is fighting to change the formula, which it says is unscientific and exaggerates endangered status. A Montreal conservation group supported an initiative to examine what’s up with temperate and boreal forests around the world.