Wachiya, Bon Jour, Good Morning.
Thank you for coming this morning! I also thank Mr. Richard Desjardins, Mr. Henri Jacob and Pierre Dubois for their far-sighted efforts to protect the forests of Quebec.
As you all know, the Crees are embroiled in a major legal challenge over the way in which forestry is conducted in the James Bay Territory. We believe the current forestry system ignores the social-agreement that we signed with Quebec and Canada in 1975. The companies and Quebec do not recognize the importance of the Cree hunters who depend on the boreal forest. They deny us our rights under the James Bay Northern Quebec Agreement and section 35 of the Constitution. Excessive clear-cutting, which has doubled in the last decade to now over 800 square kilometres per year, is crippling our traditional way of life and destabilizing our communities.
We Crees favour proper planning in the use of the boreal forest. We oppose the cutting of the forest only to maximize short-term corporate profits.
The legislation that allows the companies to exploit the forest grants a guaranteed supply of wood forever! It states that if for any reason, this supply is reduced, then the government must compensate the companies. These guarantees are given in the absence of adequate forest inventory data. How could they make such promises when the wood may not be there?
The current 5 and 25-year forestry management plans are two years late because of a lack of forest inventory data. The present system is founded upon how much wood can be processed in the mills rather than on the social and ecological carrying capacity of the boreal forest. This is what we oppose and this is what we are working to change!
Our message and the reason that we have joined with Richard Desjardins Henri Jacob and Pierre Dubois is to fix this problem. The process for approving the 5 and 25-year management plans has begun without allowing for proper consultation and public information.
To date, at least 15 of the 20 twenty-five-year management plans and 9 of the twenty five-year management plans have been filed at various Ministry of Natural Resources Offices in the James Bay Territory.
I have with me an example of one of Domtar's 25-year forest management plans. As you can see it is quite technical and I am told poses a challenge even for a forester to review, let alone a Cree hunter. Under the current consultation process we have 45 days to review and provide comments on the information. As you can see, given the volume of information, this is not enough time. This is especially true when the public must seek written approval to even view the plans which are only available at distant Ministry Offices. For some this means a drive of several hundred kilometres.
If this wasn't difficult enough, the cutting plans are not all released at the same time and so there are multiple 45 day consultation periods. Moreover not all of the clear-cutting plans have been released and we do not know when the rest will be submitted to Quebec.
For the Crees, it means contending with many complex forestry management plans covering the 70,000 km2 under company agreements in the James Bay Territory. These plans overlap geographically and have different time frames for comment on their content. In 1975 we agreed to a social and environmental impact review process to decide on such plans. Today Quebec and Canada deny us our rights.
In a normal planning process and certainly under our 1975 Agreement, public input is sought before, during and after detailed plans are put forward for approval. However under the present Forest Act, public input is only sought once the final detailed forest management plan is decided and within days of its final approval. This is not consultation, it is simply presentation and it is a mockery of due process and rule of law.
If it takes over 5 years to collect all the necessary data to draw up these plans, why is it that they only allow for 45 days for public involvement? It is because the companies, Quebec and Canada are not concerned with what the Crees, the outfitters, the environmentalists, local residents, cottagers, sport hunters and fishermen or citizens of Quebec have to say in regard to the way they operate in the forest. If they were truly concerned then the would offer for more than a token process.
This is why we Crees have rejected this rubber-stamp process and filed an injunction to stop the approval of these plans at least until they have been properly evaluated in an environmental review process that allows for Crees and others to fully participate in the forestry planning process. We all need to have technical evaluations that weigh the impacts on our various interests and rights.