A Member of the European Parliament says there is an “urgent need” for Quebec to change its policies on forestry.

“Quebec’s forestry practices clearly violate the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement from 1975. The Agreement promises the protection of the Cree people, their economies and the wildlife resources upon which they depend,” said Irene Soltwedel-Schafer, also a member of the Parliament’s Committee on Economy, Currency and Industrial Affairs.

“Implementing the results of the Rio-UNCED Conference surely did not intend to force indigenous communities off their land through clear-cut logging.”

Soltwedel-Schafer made her comments on May 29 at a press conference in Brussels, Belgium entitled, “Quebec: another Brazil of the North?” Also addressing the press conference was Thomas Coon on behalf of the Cree Trappers’ Association and the Grand Council of the Crees.

Coon brought up the fact that an area the size of 350 square kilometers is clear-cut in Eeyou Astchee each year. He said current Quebec policy is to allow “natural regeneration” in these areas, but regeneration is not happening.

“Sustainable, ecologically sound forest management is sacrificed to the quick profit to be made by mining out the small black spruce forest. The trees cut have taken 200 or more years to grow and will not regenerate for a long time,” he said.

Coon also pointed out that the wildlife in the areas cut suffers as habitats are wiped out and water systems are damaged. The human toll is also evident, he said. “The families whose lands are reduced to an area resembling a battlefield are the ones who suffer the most Cultural displacement, loss of values, alcoholism and family breakdown all result from this so-called development. When we demand that forest cutting be managed so that families are left with sustainable territories, Quebec turns a deaf ear to us.”