Crees are going to court to demand an injunction on forestry activities in Iyiyuuschii after negotiations with Quebec collapsed with no deal.

Grand Chief Matthew Coon Come and the Cree chiefs decided last week to request two so-called interlocutory injunctions, one against the province and Ottawa, and the other targetting two dozen companies operating in Cree traplines.

The injunctions could bring logging to a halt while the Cree forestry case filed last summer winds its way through the court system.

It could mean over $1 billion in losses per year to the companies, according to Cree estimates, and thousands of workers laid off.

Crees held off on asking for the injunction while negotiations stumbled along with Quebec for a year.

In the injunctions, the Crees ask the court not to approve any new forestry plans or permits until a complete environmental and social review is done, in accordance with the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement. Many of the cutting plans are up for renewal this fall.

“We are confident that full environmental and social-impact assessment and reviews will demonstrate that present forestry practices are unacceptable in Northern Quebec, and need to be curtailed and radically altered,” said Coon Come in a statement.

Quebec reacted furiously when it first discovered Crees were contemplating the injunction to add more zip to the $600-million-plus Mario Lord forestry case. Quebec cut off negotiations with
the Crees on millions of dollars for promised essential-services projects.

The Parti Québécois government and forestry industry have been under enormous pressure from the public to change forestry practices after a scathing documentary on clearcutting in the North was released earlier this year by poet-songwriter Richard Desjardins and film-maker Robert Monderie.

Last month, Quebec and the Crees seemed to almost have a deal on forestry. Quebec was apparently ready to give Crees a say over forestry planning and a share of stumpage fees it collects from Cree traplines – about $5 million per year, or 10 per cent of stumpage fees collected in Iyiyuuschii.

Quebec and the Crees would have formed a joint entity with a 50-per-cent Cree board of directors to review and approve forestry cutting plans. The entity would have also run a program to assist trappers affected by forestry. Quebec proposed to ensure that no more than 50 per cent of a trapline is cut.

Later, Quebec reportedly backed off on some of these ideas. Provincial negotiators wanted to give the joint entity the power to make only a recommendation on cutting plans to the minister, not full control. The province also apparently balked on funding the entity adequately.

In Cree eyes, Quebec also fell short in terms of compensation to trappers and hunters for past damages.

Yet another sticking point was whether the deal would have status as a treaty, which means it’s constitutionally protected. Quebec wanted to simply enact it in a law, easily amended later.