Waswanipi Chief John Kitchen and trapper Harry Blacksmith signed an agreement with Domtar Inc. on Dec. 12 for compensation for forestry operations in Cree traplines. Affected trappers will get $ 15,000 the first year their trapline is cut and $ 10,000 each year after. The Waswanipi First Nation will receive $350,000. The agreement is in force for five years.
“It’s not a lot of money but it helps,” said Blacksmith. “People said we should go for more money but we say it’s just to help us survive. Some people are telling us we’re selling our rights and our land, but this isn’t true. We’re just looking for compensation for the damages.”
Kitchen said he’s happy if the trappers are happy. He told The Nation that in the past no one helped the trappers out.
“This is the same thing we’re trying to do with the non-Native companies. In fact, we’d like to see the Provincial Forestry Act changed. There is no respect for residents of the land being cut. Basically, we want a say in when and where the companies cut.”
Blacksmith remembered the shock he felt when he went back to trap on the land in his care. “Domtar used to cut on my trapline. Wood is being cut and with the damages there is no game. I couldn’t survive. The other trappers and me, we got together and talked about that. We said we should have some compensation for that. I’ve talked to others and they said their trapline is like that… no game. We need something until it comes back.”
Kitchen admitted that he signed without formal Band Council approval, but claimed he consulted by phone with as many of the councilors as he could reach. “It was something we had discussed for the last seven or eight months. Three councilors plus myself agreed to sign the agreement.” Other councilors opposed the agreement at a meeting with Domtar in Val d’Or days before the agreement was signed.
Kitchen said the agreement is a short-term measure and that a long-term solution must be achieved in conjunction with the Grand Council.