A coalition of environmentalists and first nations were buoyed by a recent U.S. Department of Commerce decision to impose countervailing duties on Canadian lumber imported into the United States. The duty was levied to deal with the imbalance caused by Canadian subsidies to the lumber industry. The preliminary decision in the countervailing duty case, rendered by the U.S. Department of Commerce on August 10, 2001, assesses a retroactive duty of 19.3% on Canadian softwood lumber exports to the United States.

While Canada and the U.S have begun a process for developing solutions to the softwood lumber trade dispute that will deal with forestry reform issues such as environmental protection and the enforcement of environmental laws,

First Nations issues are not on the agenda.

“The same mechanisms, generous subsidies and over-cutting, that give Quebec companies a clear advantage over the U.S. also are contributing to the destruction of the Cree way of life,” said Romeo Saganash, representing the Grand Council of the Crees. “This decision shows Quebec and Canada the importance of addressing the full range of forestry reform issues, including the First Nations concerns.”

A coalition that included the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Northwest Ecosystem Alliance, the Interior Alliance of B.C., and the Grand Council of the Crees had petitioned the U.S Secretary of Commerce on May 10, 2001, to seek additional duties on Canadian lumber to those being sought by the U.S. timber industry. The coalition claimed, among other points, that violations of Cree treaty rights in Quebec were in effect connected to hidden subsidies in the logging industry. While the August 10 decision is but a preliminary step in the countervailing duty case, a final decision will be made by the Department of Commerce by late 2001 or early 2002.