Bungling by Quebec and forestry companies has done what years of Cree complaints have yet to accomplish. It has brought logging to a halt – not just in Iyiyuuschii, but all across Quebec.
As of April 1, logging in Quebec was illegal because all forest-exploitation permits in the province ceased to be valid.
Meanwhile, Cree officials, trappers and Eiders toured the northern-most Cree communities to talk about forestry and what Crees should do next in their campaign on the issue.
As previously reported in The Nation, forestry companies are up to two years late filing their logging plans, which are needed before Quebec will issue a permit to cut trees in public forests.
The government has quietly allowed the companies to keep on logging without the plans, a situation Cree officials have said is probably illegal.
Quebec has given the companies several unofficial extensions, but those were set to expire on April 1.
Finally, with about a week left before the deadline, Quebec introduced emergency legislation in the National Assembly to let the companies keep cutting after April 1. In fact, this new extension lets loggers keep cutting for two more years.
But the emergency legislation quickly got stalled because the government first has to pass its annual budget. The legislation will probably not be passed until sometime in the first week of April.
Until it is, thousands of loggers in Quebec will have to stop working.
One lawyer for the Crees wondered how the logging stoppage will be monitored, if at all. “I think it’s a pure comedy. Who will be able to control that?” she said.
Natural Resources Minister Jacques Brassard admitted to reporters the government is partly responsible for the mess. His officials have not completed a 10-year inventory of the province’s forests that the companies need to finish their forest-management plans.
Grand Chief Ted Moses called Quebec’s handling of the situation a “shortterm, Band-Aid, bubblegum solution.
“They have no idea of the long-term perspectives,” he said in one article.
During all this, Moses and a group of trappers and Elders from the southern-most Cree communities went on a tour of Iyiyuuschii to talk about forestry and what comes next.
Decisions are needed on whether to continue with the Mario Lord forestry court case, and what to do now that Cree chiefs have decided to withdraw from the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement. For example, what happens to the Income Security Program?
So far, the chiefs are getting an enthusiastic reception from Crees at meetings held on forestry. “It’s definitely going to be a hot summer. That’s the forecast – mild for Montreal, wild for up north,” laughed one trapper. “I’ve already burned the agreement 1,000 times in my heart.”