It isn’t only the Crees complaining about the Quebec government’s way of managing forests in Quebec. Singer Richard Desjardins, Quebec environmental groups and the Grand Council of the Crees gathered in Montreal on February 15 to ask for a moratorium on the approval of new forest-management plans.
The coalition pointed out that the government is going ahead with the management plans even though Quebec Natural Resources Minister Jacques Brassard has admitted that the management plans of the companies are deficient and there are problems with the public consultation process.
The coalition says that by continuing the process, Brassard has failed to uphold his responsibility to the population and denounce the sham consultation. “The Department of Natural Resources has sold out the interests of the Quebec population and the Crees in the forest to multinational corporations,” said the coalition in a statement.
Richard Desjardins said 80 percent of Quebecers polled – and half of the PQ at a recent party convention support the forestry campaign – support the forestry campaign. He said it could become an electoral issue. Desjardins warned that if something isn’t done we could see a time when Quebec wouldn’t have a boreal forest. A reporter questioned him on this, and Desjardins said that you just have to fly over the north in a plane. “It’s like a Mohawk haircut style,” he said. At the moment Desjardins said there is no difference between PQ and Liberal practices when it comes to Quebec’s forests.
Henri Jacobs, of Le Reseau Québécois des Groups Ecologists said that currently the biggest fine the forestry companies have had to pay works out to $5 a tree. Given the fact that Quebec collects $10 a tree in stumpage fees, why bother getting a license to cut when the fine is less, wondered one of the press.
Grand Chief Ted Moses complained about the consultation process where you would only have 45 days to review forestry plans submitted by the companies – plans Moses said confuse even experienced foresters. Moses said the press conference wasn’t about the Crees.
“This press conference is for the trees,” he said, adding that the forestry plans are designed not with the environment in mind, but rather plant or mill capacity. “If the company can’t cut to the plant’s capacity then they will be compensated by the government,” said Moses. He said this is not a sustainable practice.
Moses was particularly happy that hardline PQ sovereignists were sitting by his side. “This is not a political issue, it’s people who are concerned. We are coming together over a common interest,” he said. Moses said the Quebec government has turned over management of the forests to the companies and this is dangerous.
Chief Paul Gull of Waswanipi said 70 percent of Waswanipi traplines have been cut and in the next five to 10 years it’ll be 100 percent. “There’ll be no stands of old trees left,” he warned, saying in their place at best would be commercial trees. Gull said Waswanipi has an agreement with forestry giant Domtar.
“It shows that trees, Crees and can co-exist in a meaningful manner,” he said.