The news spread fast. The Cree court case against the forestry industry and governmentsis a go. Grand Chief Matthew Coon Come traveled to Waskaganish to discuss the courtcase earlier this month. With him were Chief John Kitchen and lawyer James O’Reilly.Waskaganish was the last of the five Cree communities affected by forestry to give its approval.

“It was the same type of reaction as in the other communities. The people are all very concerned about forestry exploitation,” said O’Reilly.

Jack Blacksmith, coordinator of the Cree Forestry Working Group, wasn’t able to attend the meeting, but was relieved when he heard the news.

“Even though I was optimistic, I was still relieved to hear we had support in Waskaganish.”

The meeting lasted over four hours and was broadcast live by the radio station.

Of the five communities touched by forestry, Waskaganish is one of the least affected. Only two Waskaganish traplines are presently being logged, those of the late Bert Moar Sr. and Charlie Diamond, brother of Chief Billy Diamond.

But those traplines are in the area of Muskuchii Mountain, a sacred site famous for its great abundance of wildlife. To the Waskaganish people, it was unthinkable that this area would be logged.

But that is just what Norbord is doing. “These are rich sites for the company,” said Gérard Lafôret, Norbord’s director of forestry and the environment.

Norbord has a license to cut 100,000 cubic metres per year

in the Waskaganish territory. The wood is for two mills in Lasarre, where Norbord has 300 employees. Norbord has also started building a road 30 to 50 kilometres long into the virgin forests north of the mountain.

Norbord and Waskaganish have been talking for four or five years about how to limit the damage by using “mosaic” cutting, instead of dearcuts, Lafôret said.

The company also agreed to hire 20 Waskaganish Crees each summer for sylviculture work (treeplanting) and offers the community a wholesale price on buying back the trees that were cut down.

Lafôret said the company also offers “services” to the trappers affected by the forestry, but said it’s “nothing formal on paper.”

He would not give details beyond saying, “It’s an exchange of services.”

The final touches are now being put on the Cree court case, which will be filed at Quebec Superior Court mostly likely in mid-July.

The defendants will be a dozen forestry companies operating in lyiyuuschii, as well as Quebec and the federal government. The plaintiffs will be the five communities, the Grand Council of the Crees/Cree Regional Authority and individual tallymen.

The lawsuit will ask the court for an injunction to stop the operations of loggersthroughout the Cree territory. It will ask the court to declare the companies’ timber-supplylicenses and the Quebec Forest Act illegal and unconstitutional, and violate theCree rights.

See our next issue for our full interview with Jack Blacksmith.