British Columbia’s forestry minister says recent duties imposed on Canadian softwood lumber exports by the United States are the act of a “hostile foreign power” trying to destroy the country.

The Canadian Press reports that Mike De Jong denounced the new 29 per cent tariff brought down by the U.S. government, calling it a protectionist act to shield a weak American lumber industry. The U.S. says Canada unfairly subsidizes lumber producers and dumps cheaper lumber on their markets. Forestry experts say the duties could kill thousands of jobs across Canada.

“Our forest dependent communities and forest dependent families are under attack by a hostile foreign power,” said De Jong, who was at the negotiation table when talks failed. “It made everyone in that room in Washington sick to their stomachs to watch that unfold.” He suggested that American negotiators may have misplaced Canadian compassion and generosity after the September 11 terrorist’attacks in Washington and New York. “Clearly there is no appreciation on the American side for the steps we took after September 11, and it’s time for us to be very active,” said De Jong.

Some unions in the province are calling on the public to boycott U.S. products, but federal Trade Minister Pierre Pettigrew says he would prefer to take the issue to court. Ottawa has already announced it will appear before the World Trade Organization and NAFTA.