The edition of February 1995 in The Nation paper gave some information which might be misleading to the Cree communities and also to any person who might be subscribing to the paper. Therefore, I felt it was appropriate and necessary to give additional and more precise information on the logging operations and the Wood Transformation Centre Project of the Waswanipi Mishtuk Corporation.
Mishtuk Corporation was created in 1982 as a community entity with a community mandate to undertake logging operations within the Category I lands of the community of Waswanipi. It was always the long-term objective of the Corporation and also of the community to expand these logging operations into a wood transformation centre of some type. Since 1989, negotiations have taken place with a number of forestry companies in the region and such negotiations concentrated on the development of a joint venture in the forestry industry. At the same time, negotiations were undertaken by the community representatives with the Ministry of Forestry of Quebec for additional wood on provincial Crown lands as the sustainable yield of wood supply in Category I lands was insufficient for a profitable and a viable wood transformation centre project.
The main purpose of the logging operations and the intent of the Wood Transformation Centre Project was to create local employment as much as possible and also, that such projects have some positive economic impacts on the community of Waswanipi.
At the present time, Mishtuk Corporation harvests approximately 50,000 cubic metres from the Category I lands of the community and such wood is usually sold to the highest bidder amongst the forestry companies in the region. As a result of the Wood Transformation Centre Project, Mishtuk Corporation has successfully negotiated with the Ministry of Forestry of Quebec an additional volume of 80,000 cubic metres of wood which would be filtered through the Wood Transformation Centre Project and the remaining volume which represents approximately 69,000 cubic metres will be sold to the potential partner at a negotiated price.
In the past year, Mishtuk Corporation has employed approximately 20 individuals both in the administrative staff and also in the logging operation process out of which 30 per cent are non-Native. The non-Native individuals are technical personnel, professional personnel and experienced machine operators. As a result of the logging operations, an additional 30 to 40 individuals are hired on a seasonal and part-time basis in the implementation of sylviculture works of various types. Mishtuk Corporation presently is also undertaking training programs of Native personnel in the administrative, technical and in the logging operations.
The Wood Transformation Centre Project will likely employ approximately 32 individuals on two shifts and will operate 42 weeks annually taking into account all traditional and statutory holidays. Training programs of Native personnel will be undertaken in the first years of operations and such training may be prolonged for the key personnel of the mill. There will be approximately 60 individuals involved in the forestry industry which would include the mill operations, the logging operations, the technical and the administrative personnel. These figures exclude the seasonal and part-time employment of individuals involved in the various types of sylviculture works.
Prior to each operating season,
Mishtuk Corporation holds a consultation process with tallymen who are directly affected by the operations of the corporation. Also, at each annual meeting, Mishtuk Corporation will hold consultation and also information sessions with the general public on the operations of the corporation. Mishtuk Corporation takes into account the concerns of the trappers and hunters of the community in their respective operating areas with the creation of buffer zones around water bodies, the protection of wildlife and wildlife habitat, and the protection of the environment.
The corporation has also set up a remedial fund for the trappers and hunters to remedy damages which may be caused by the logging operations of the corporation. These undertakings have reduced the volume of annual harvest of wood and have increased operating costs of the corporation. Mishtuk Corporation is also involved in financial contributions to the community with respect to landscaping and the creation of recreation and beautification sites. The corporation also contributes financially to the recreation activities of local committees, to charitable organizations, to individual and family units who require financial assistance. Aside from these transactions Mishtuk Corporation also pays an annual stumpage fee of wood harvested to the local Band Council. These transactions presently being undertaken by Mishtuk Corporation represent substantial amounts of monies.
Mishtuk benefits community So as one can see, the community of Waswanipi receives a number of benefits from the operations of Mishtuk Corporation. Like in any other economic development project, there are some positive and some negative impacts and this is applicable to the operations of the Corporation. However, the operations of Mishtuk Corporation should not be compared to other logging operations in the region due to the fact that the operations of the Corporation are very small and procedures of protecting wildlife, environment and the traditional pursuits are above and beyond those required by provincial legislation or practiced by other forestry companies in the region. These alleged negative impacts are so minimal and will occur over a long period of approximately 60-70 years.
During the re-generation no forestry activities would take place in the area for a period of at least 70 to 80 years which represents more than a lifespan of a trapper as much wood would not be suited for commercial use. There have been some indications from experienced trappers that 10 years after logging operations in an area and as regeneration commences to take place, there is an abundance of wildlife.
The statement by the individual who wants to remain anonymous with regards to the creation of employment by distributing monies directly to individuals must be a non-Native person who has limited knowledge of the operations of Native communities, the policy guidelines of government programs for Native people and the difficulties encountered by Native people to obtain loans from lending institutions. It also seems that this individual is not aware that there have been some transactions within the province of Quebec and Canada where monetary benefits were paid directly to individuals and such transactions had disastrous effects on the individuals and on the community.
The negative reactions to the community forestry activities and to the community Wood Transformation Centre Project may occur from the lack of understanding about the forestry industry or the misinforming and the misleading of some of the community population by certain individuals within the community. The negative reaction could also be sheer jealousy where certain individuals cannot see others succeed. Poor management and administrative political decisions rather than business decisions, and the constant fear of failure, have caused some communities’ economic development projects to fail. If only the trend of dealing with community economic development projects would change and with some PMA (positive mental attitude) our economic development projects may have a better chance of success.
Peter Gull, President, Mishtuk Corp.
Ed. note: The individual who asked to be quoted anonymously in The Nation is a Cree resident of Waswanipi.