(Nemaska, May 15, 2013) Earlier today the Grand Council of the Crees (Eeyou Istchee) issued a formal challenge to the FSC Certification for Forest Management Unit 025-51 in the Saguenay Lac Saint Jean region in Québec held by Resolute Forest Products Inc. This is the largest Forest Management Unit in Québec.
In its brief to Accreditation Services International (ASI), the organization overseeing auditors contracted by forestry companies for FSC certifications, the Grand Council of the Crees (Eeyou Istchee) contends that Resolute Forest Products’ refusal to respect the Baril-Moses Agreement between the Crees and Québec constitutes a major infringement to FSC’s International Principles 1 (compliance with laws, agreements and treaties) and 3 (compliance with the rights and interests of Indigenous Peoples) and by extension, Canada’s Boreal Standard.
Signed in 2002, the Baril-Moses Agreement extended many of the forestry provisions of the Paix des braves Agreement to Cree traplines located east of the “height of land” in the Saguenay Lac Saint Jean Region. From 2002 to 2009, Resolute Forest Products operated within the provisions of this Agreement. In 2010, the company knowingly and unilaterally implemented forestry management plans contrary to the Baril-Moses Agreement.
In reflection on these events, Dr. Matthew Coon Come, Grand Chief of the Grand Council of the Crees (Eeyou Istchee), stated: “Since signing the James Bay and Northern Québec Agreement, the Crees have vigorously defended all their agreements with governments. The Baril-Moses Agreement is no different and resource companies, regardless of their size, must be held accountable to these agreements.”
The Grand Council of the Crees (Eeyou Istchee) submission to ASI marks the second time that the Crees have challenged this certification. In the fall of 2012, the Crees successfully contested this certification with Resolute Forest Products auditors, Rainforest Alliance, who assigned a “Major non-conformance” to Resolute Forest Products for failing to obtain the Crees’ free and informed consent for forestry operations contrary to the Baril-Moses Agreement. Last month, Rainforest Alliance, in a review of the certification, revised its previous decision, thereby reconfirming Resolute Forest Products’ certification. The Crees’ submission to ASI is an appeal to Rainforest Alliance’s recent decision.
Forest certifications under FSC’s Principles are unique among other forestry certifications systems in that they require companies to be in compliance with international laws, and to gain the free, prior and informed consent of Indigenous Peoples whose lands they operate upon (FSC Principles 1 and 3). The Crees’ challenge to Resolute Forest Products’ certification is important because it constitutes one of the few cases whereby this concept of free, prior and informed consent is clearly documented. To the Crees, this case is as much a challenge to Resolute Forest Products as it is a test of FSC’s Principles.
According to Isaac Voyageur, Director of the Cree Regional Authority’s Environment and Remedial Works Department: “If Resolute can be certified without meeting FSC’s Principles, what will happen in the future to the other FSC certified companies in our territory that have met these Principles? Resolute Forest Products should be held accountable to the same standards as the other FSC certified companies harvesting on Cree traplines.”
Resolute Forest Products’ operations on Forest Management Unit 025-51 have been controversial as they were the subject of an aborted challenge by Greenpeace under the terms of the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement (CBFA). The Grand Council of the Crees (Eeyou Istchee) notes that according to maps on CBFA’s website and those used by Greenpeace, the traplines under the Baril-Moses Agreement fall within CBFA’s moratorium.