The following is the Preface from the book The Real Masters of Quebec’s Forest, written by forestry engineer Pierre Dubuc. The Preface is by popular Quebec singer Richard Desjardins, who is from Rouyn and is a vocal critic of Quebec’s forestry practices:
I write these words a few hours before the 1995 referendum. Whether the No or the Yes wins, one thing is certain: federally or sovereignly, in English or French, the boreal forest will continue to be pillaged. With indifference.
All the factors are in place. Prices are high, the demand remains unsalable, the profits extraordinary and the State has given away on paper what’s left of the resource. The smallest sawmill turns day and night, while in the forest three men and their machines are capable today of cutting down 15,000 trees per week.
The Free Trade Agreement obliges us to produce, and the forestry lobby has succeeded in cutting off all legal avenues which could allow a citizen to pursue an industrial abuser. Finally, the population does not understand the magnitude of the scandal, does not know the facts, or believes that it can’t do anything.
To spare the sensitivities of the bleeding hearts, they leave a strip of forest on each side of the road. This cynical practice even has a scientific name: visual simulation.
What do we call this hallucination which consists in seeing trees where there aren’t any more? How did we get to this point?
Society has given forestry engineers the moral task of governing the forest resource and the mandate to protect it. Telling the story of the destruction of our forest is also telling the story of the intellectual disintegration of this professional corporation of self-proclaimed “guardians of law.” These people have justified, among other things, the practice of clear-cutting, the mechanical devastation of the soil and the spilling of poisons. Despite all the progress accomplished in the knowledge of eco-systems and their vital importance, they continue to see the forest as a balance sheet of trees. It’s pitiful.
These technocrats go from ministries to companies, bought off by salaries of dubious legitimacy considering the protection they assure to the forest, satisfying themselves with scientific aberrations, arranging their studies so they agree with the law of the sawmill, never speaking publicly about the real problems which are crushing the forest and forestry workers. In an Abitibi government office, I was told: “We are map counters for the companies.”
Paradoxically, it’s the executives of the big paper companies who worry openly about the “problem of the availability of wood.” The head of Tembec even speaks in poetry when he evokes the “growing rarity of the resource.”
Never, I believe, has a professional corporation reached such a level of prostitution. The technicians are put on a leash, discouraged and muzzled. Always two languages: that of the office and that of the tavern. This book’s author, Pierre Dubois, said a few years ago that forestry engineers don’t protect the public, and was subjected to an inquiry by the engineers’ society and even invited to resign. Why? Because he dared to criticize. Because he simply dared to do his job. Believe or die. The truth can only come to light from their conscience, their hearts and courage.
It is time for them to speak, it is time for us to listen.
-Richard Desjardins October 1995