A boycott that hurt multinational forestry corporation Daishowa was ended when Daishowa agreed not to cut on Lubicon Cree lands in western Canada as long as the Cree land claims were outstanding.

Daishowa went so far as to give up cutting rights to the land. Why then, ask the Friends of the Lubicon, is Daishowa going back to court on May 4?

That is when Daishowa will be appealing a 1998 Ontario court decision that said the consumer boycott was a “model of how such activities should be conducted in a democratic society?”

Dan Berman, of Amitié Lubicons-Quebec, has an answer.

He says that even though Daishowa has given up the right to cut the trees in the Lubicon area, it turned around and made an agreement to purchase trees from Lubicon land with another forestry company that brought the cutting rights to the area in question.

Berman said the lawsuit could be considered a SLAPP lawsuit.

SLAPP means Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation, and is a tactic used by major corporations to limit the things people can say or do. Lawyers of people or organizations hit with a SLAPP tell them to tone it down until after the court case. “We’re concerned about the implications of a multinational attempting to limit free speech and why they are trying to make a boycott illegal when there is no boycott at this time,” Berman said.

“Why would you ask for an injunction against a boycott that no longer exists? Why should the Court even be hearing this?” asks Kevin Thomas, spokesperson with the group Friends of the Lubicon. “It only makes sense if Daishowa is planning to break its own written promise and wants to silence any potential criticism before doing so. As long as Daishowa keeps its word, there’s no boycott to shut down.”

Daishowa claimed the boycott cost the company $14 million until June 1998, when it was called off. In January 1996, an Ontario appellate court agreed that the boycott was “causing economic harm” to Daishowa and illegal.

The judge issued a temporary injunction that was later overturned in 1998.

Friends of the Lubicon called off the boycott when Daishowa made a commitment not to log or buy wood cut on Lubicon traditional territories until the land rights are settled, and until a timber harvesting agreement respecting Lubicon wildlife and environmental concerns is negotiated.

The Lubicon Lake First Nation is a small Cree society living in northern Alberta who have been struggling for over 60 years to gain recognition of their land rights. Huge amounts of oil and gas were discovered on their land and the resulting exploitation has lead to other interests such as forestry coming into the Lubicon territory. After fighting for recognition the Lubicon Crees have mounted an international campaign to have their rights recognized.

“We’re trying to survive from day to day and need all the help we can get from the general public,” said Lubicon Chief Bernard Ominayak in a statement.