The Paix des Braves agreement has made the Cree Nation prosperous in many respects, but may be indirectly responsible for impoverishing the forest industry of the Attikamek of Obedjiwan.
Last year, Waswanipi put in a request to the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR), for 70,000 cubic metres of wood. This request was granted. The problem arose when the community of Obedjiwan also requested, but was refused, 30,000 cubic metres of wood from the ministry.
It wasn’t a case of the Cree taking from the Attikamek, according to Alfred Jolly, President of Mishtuk Corporation. Rather, it’s the domino effect of shifting timber allocations.
“Cree’s don’t have any problems with Obedjiwan,” Jolly said. “We got 30,000 cubic metres [last year], but it wasn’t in their area. It was on the CAF [or common area] of Barrette-Chapais. It was within the territory of Waswanipi traplines. That’s where the whole problem started. They didn’t agree with it because the Crees got some volume of wood from the ministry and they didn’t get what they wanted.”
Jolly says the disagreement is affecting the Barrette-Chapais forestry company because Obedjiwan refused to sign their management plan. Another part of the problem is that Barrette-Chapais moved their cutting areas further south toward Obedjiwan trap lines. Due to the Paix des Braves, Barrette-Chapais’s volume decreased around the Waswanipi area because of protected zones.
“They had to find another area so they moved their operations down towards Obedjiwan territory,” said Jolly.
The government’s refusal to give Obedjiwan the requested volume of timber represents a blow to the community’s economic development plan.
Harvesting 30,000 cubic metres of wood and the jobs that arise from that allocation are worth a lot of money. Estimates range from six to seven figure profits for the community.
“They’re [Obedjiwan] pissed off at Barrette-Chapais and the government,” said Sam Etapp, Forestry Coordinator for the Grand Council of the Crees. “This is the name of the game in this allocation. Waswanipi is pissed off at Barrette-Chapais because Waswanipi wanted extra and they didn’t get it. It’s a vicious cycle. In the end, however, you know things are always worked out.”
Obedjiwan’s Chief, Simon Awashish could not be reached for comment.
The overall timber allocation for the five Cree communities involved in forestry (Ouje-Bougoumou, Waswanipi, Nemaska, Waskaganish and Mistissini) is 350,000 cubic metres on an annual basis.
The government allocates a certain number of cubic metres for harvesting annually. Sometimes the areas allocated have been harvested too many times or too recently, or the trees are too young. In those rare cases the community will ask for a more suitable area. Once the government informs the forestry companies as to how many cubic metres have been allotted to the Cree, and what areas have been agreed upon, the company can then negotiate directly with the Cree.
“Last year was the first year that wood was allocated under the Paix des Braves,” Etapp noted, “and 70,000 cubic metres went to Waswanipi in five different CAF areas. That was one of the problems associated with that: There was an area that the MNR had taken apart from that distribution, the Waswanipi distribution. And that was in an area that was jointly allocated to the Attikamek Nation.”