“OUR LIFE, OUR WORK, OUR HERITAGE”
Motto of the La Coalition sur les forets vierges nordiques
Not only the Crees are worried about forestry activities in the Cree territory but also a powerful coalition in Quebec recently announced they want changes to the forestry operations in the area. La Coalition sur les forets vierges nordiques is taking the Quebec government to task over the issue saying the forests in the Cree territory are fragile. The fragility of the northern forests is an ecology based on fire, wind, insects, a short growing season and the fact they are built on permafrost shows regeneration is difficult. “Are we being careful, the evidence says no,” said President Harvey Mead of LUnion québécoise pour la conservation de la nature, who is heading up the coalition.
The first demand of the coalition is an independent public inquiry would be set up to look at forestry operations in Quebec. “We want something where it is recognized public participation is needed,” said Mead. The inquiry would look at forest management practices, working condition is the woods, forestry practices and the underpinning assumptions on which harvest quotas are calculated.
“We have to take a serious look at these things, we don’t know how fragile northern virgin forest are. Are we being careful enough? The evidence to date says no,” said Mead. Mead would expect the inquiry to take a couple of years to study Quebec’s forestry policy and practices.
Among their list of demands is a moratorium on the issuing of CAAF permits. These are the permits which allot treecutting rights in different areas to forestry companies. Currently two thirds of the annual forest cut is conducted in the forests of Abitibi, Northern Quebec, the Saguenay, Lac St. jean and the North Shore. The Coalition says there is a danger Quebec could be killing the northern forests.
They say they would like to see areas in Quebec set aside as parks, which would double as control areas in studies.
The coalition is also asking questions on what impacts forestry operations has on the First Nations peoples in the affected areas. They want to know how it affects the Native way of life. The coalition says they are aware that traditional ways of life such as hunting, fishing and trapping are affected. They demand the government define a forestry policy that respects the expectations, needs and way of life of indigenous communities.
Another risk is the Caribou de bois according to the coalition. These caribou are distinct from the great caribou herds who live in the northern tundra and timber cuts have reached the areas where the last of these woods herds live. The timber cuts allow sports hunters greater access and the woods caribou are particularly vulnerable according to the coalition. They are asking for protection of these herds.
The coalition denounces the Quebec decision to give a larger say to forest industry representatives in the management of public forests.
The Grand Council of the Crees are part of the coalition along with L’Assmblee des évélles du Quebec, La Federation des producteurs de bois du Quebec, La Federation des trvailleurs et des travailleuse du papier et de la foret (CSN), Le Reseau des groupes écologistes du Quebec, Le Syndicat canadien des communications de l’energie et du papier (FTQ), Le Syndicat de la fonction publique du Quebec, Le Syndicat des professionnels et des professionnelles du government du Quebec and L’Union québécoise pour la conservation de la nature (UQCN) representing over 200,000 Quebecers.