One by one, Cree tallymen and trappers are flying off to Montreal to testify in support of a Cree request for an injunction to stop logging in two dozen traplines.
The hearings started two weeks ago and will continue until December 23. Court rules don’t allow us to report anything that was said because witnesses may not hear each other’s testimony before they appear.
The hearings have been attended by up to 16 lawyers, most of them opposing the Cree application. Quebec Justice Ministry lawyer René Bourassa has led the questioning.
If granted, the injunction would shut down logging by two dozen companies on Cree land. It was requested as part of a sweeping Cree forestry lawsuit filed in 1998 known as the Mario Lord case, named after the lead plaintiff.
The Cree lawsuit claims that the Quebec Forest Act and timber-license agreements in Iyiyuuschii are illegal and unconstitutional.
The injunction was filed to crank up the pressure on the forestry industry, Canada and Quebec to meet Cree demands. Without a settlement, it could take five to 10 years before there is a decision on the court case.
“It was a way to speed up things,” said Sam Etapp, coordinator of the Cree forestry campaign.
Etapp said Crees gave Quebec a last chance to negotiate a settlement earlier this year, but the province didn’t come close to making an acceptable offer.
The Cree side has actually filed three separate motions. The first asks for a halt to logging in 24 traplines in five Cree communities.
A second motion seeks a court order forcing Quebec and Canada to hold environmental-impact hearings on all forestry operations on Cree land using federal and provincial rules, as well as those in the James Bay Agreement. Logging in the North has never been subjected to an impact study.
A third motion specifically targets a new logging road which Donohue Forest Products
Inc. wants to build north of Waswanipi.