Washington -- For the past two days representatives from the Grand Council of the Crees (Eeyou Istchee) met with several U.S. trade representatives to inform them of the negative impact of Quebec's forestry industry on the Cree way of life and on the northern boreal forests. They also discussed ways to address the problems. Although the United States purchases 87% of Quebec's forest exports, relatively few Americans are aware of the environmental and social costs left in the wake of this trade. Sam Etapp, Forestry Coordinator with the Grand Council, said that "the reason forest products from Quebec are so attractive to Americans is because there are no social or environmental costs factored into the price"Cree hunters and the land must bear the burden of these costs because Quebec favours profits over sustainable forest management. The low standards of environmental regulation that are driving Cree families from their traditional lands amount to a trade subsidy for Quebec's forest industry." Grand Chief Ted Moses commented: "The Grand Council decided to go to Washington because we think this system is unfair to everyone. It's unfair to the people of Quebec because a natural resource is being liquidated at a fraction of its true value. It's unfair to the Cree people because vast tracts of boreal forest are clear-cut in direct violation of protective provisions in our Treaty, the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement. And it's unfair to those Americans who therefore must compete at a disadvantage."Among the officials that the Crees met were John Hueunenmann, Assistant Trade Representative for North American Affairs, and representatives of the Department of Commerce. The Cree representatives also took their message to Senator Larry Craig (Idaho), and Senator Max Baucus (Montana)* whose states are particularly affected by the flood of cheap Canadian wood exports. In each of their meetings the Crees requested that U.S. trade officials press Quebec and Canada for higher standards and accountability in upcoming negotiations over the renewal of the U.S./Canada Softwood Lumber Agreement. Romeo Saganash, Director of Quebec Relations for the Grand Council, pointed out that: "Our Treaty with Canada and Quebec promised protection of our way of life and joint management of resources in the James Bay territory, now responsible for nearly half of the province's wood production. Quebec ignores these promises and gives the wood to the companies to be sold to the USA at cheap prices. When the Superior Court ruled that the Quebec forestry regime was inoperative, Quebec, Canada and the companies jointly acted to have the judge removed from the case. Because we can't get Quebec or Canada to implement our treaty and to enforce sustainable forest management, we must take our case to foreign governments."The Crees have indicated that this trip to Washington is the first step in coordinating a broad based public campaign similar to the one used to stop the Great Whale Project. Bill Namagoose, Executive Director of the Grand Council said, "We are contemplating a multi-faceted approach targeting trade and the corporate and consumer markets in the U.S. and Europe."
* Correction from original release, due to scheduling problems the Crees were unable to meet with Senator Baucus. In his place, the Crees met with Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell's (Colorado) office. The Grand Council hopes to meet with Senator Baucus in the near future.