Baril-Moses Agreement Dispute with Resolute and Quebec
What is the Baril-Moses Agreement?
Signed by Quebec Natural Resources Minister Gilles Baril and Grand Chief Ted Moses, this Agreement details how forestry operations are to be conducted on 14 Cree traplines covering 7245 km2 east of the Mistissini/Oujé-Bougoumou height of land. This represents approximately 25% of Forest Management Unit (FMU) 025-51.
When was the Agreement signed?
- The Baril-Moses Agreement was signed on February 7, 2002 at the same time the Paix des Braves Agreement was signed. Chapter 3 of the Paix des Braves Agreement includes the extensive forestry regime upon which the Baril-Moses Agreement is based.
Why was a separate Agreement from the Paix des Braves required?
- The Paix des Braves Agreement is based on the boundaries of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement (JBNQA). The Cree traplines in the Baril-Moses Agreement territory are outside of this administrative boundary.
The Government of Quebec has said that JBNQA extinguishes all Cree rights to these lands
- During the negotiations of the Paix des Braves Agreement, the Crees were asked to provide their consent to the diversion of the Rupert River for hydroelectric development. The Crees insisted that there would be no final deal unless provisions were included to address these traplines outside of the the JBNQA administrative boundary. The following provision was included in the Paix des Braves Agreement.
Considering that Mistissini has since the negotiations of the JBNQA and consistently since its signing put forward a claim in respect of the Mistissini hunting territories lying to the east of the height of land, Québec shall, within six (6) months following this Agreement, establish a process with concerned parties for the settlement of this claim. (Schedule G-5-20 Paix des Braves Agreement)
- Although some 13 years later, Quebec has yet to fulfill this provision, Quebec did enter into the Baril-Moses Agreement to address forestry issues on these traplines. The Crees viewed this as the first step towards fulfilling this provision of the Paix des Braves Agreement.
What is the nature of the Baril-Moses Agreement
- Throughout the 1990s the Crees opposed Quebec’s forest management regime which was based on large scale clear-cutting and unsustainable rates of harvest. During this time Cree hunters indicated that this management regime was displacing wildlife and by extension the Crees from their traditional traplines.
- The Crees opposition was expressed both in the court of public opinion with a 6 year international lobbying campaign and in a multi-million dollar lawsuit against the Governments of Canada and Quebec and 25 different forestry companies.
- The issue was resolved by the Paix des Braves Agreement and the introduction of a new forest management regime that better considered the Crees ongoing use of the forests for purposes other than industrial logging.
- The Baril-Moses Agreement employed this regime for the traplines not included in the Paix des Braves Agreement.
How did the dispute arise?
- In 2010, the Government of Quebec authorized forest management operations that were not in conformity with the Baril-Moses Agreement.
How is Resolute Forest Products (RPF) involved in this dispute?
- RPF was the forestry company primarily responsible for developing and excuting forest management plans that were in breach of the Baril-Moses Agreement.
Is this why RPF lost their Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) Certification?
- RPF was awarded an FSC Certification (2012) for the FMU 025-51 that encompasses the traplines in the Baril-Moses Agreement.
- In 2013, the Crees successfully appealed this certification on the grounds that the terms of the Crees consent for allowing RPF to log on these traplines were violated when the Government of Quebec and RPF chose to set aside the Agreement.
- Principle 3 of FSC International Standard calls for the consent of Indigenous Peoples affected by forestry operations.
What Role does endangered woodland caribou play in this dispute
- Woodland caribou have been listed as threatened and vulnerable species under Quebec and Federal legislation.
- Quebec has claimed that its primary reason for setting the Baril-Moses Agreement aside was because its provisions have a negative affect on woodland caribou.
- The Government has claimed that its new “ecosystemic forest management regime” will better ensure the woodland caribou’s survival in the Baril-Moses area.
Is this true?
- While the small block mosiac harvesting system under the Baril-Moses regime is not ideal for woodland caribou, the Chief Forester, Quebec’s top forestry engineer, Gérard Szaraz, recently reported that ecosystemic forestry management in Quebec threatens the long-term survival of the species.
- RPF’s FSC auditors came to the same conclusion when they added woodland caribou as another reason for suspending the company’s certification in 2013.
Why is Ecosystemic Forest Management bad for woodland caribou and moose?
- Since it was instituted in 2010, Cree hunters have witnessed a massive increase in the amount and size of clear-cutting in the Baril-Moses area. Under the Baril-Moses Agreement rules 75% of the logging was to be done in small block (150 ha) harvesting with equivalent retention of forests such that logging is done under a 50-50 mosiac ratio.
- Based on the Crees experience of large scale clear-cutting of the 1990s—what Richard Desjardins called L’Erreur Boréale in his 1999 documentary—Cree hunters favour small block mosiac harvesting because it preserves moose which are displaced by large block clear-cutting. Moose is a primary species for Cree hunters.
- Quebec’s approach to ecosystemic forest management allows for clear-cut areas up to 5000 ha. Within these areas the province employs a forest retention target of 25%; however in the Baril-Moses area it has been closer to 20%. This amount of retention and the manner in which it is dispersed over the large clear-cut area provides insufficient habitat to preserve caribou and moose.
Ecosystemic clear-cutting with continuous harvesting over 5000 ha with insufficient amounts of retention forests
Is there a solution?
- In the 5 years that Quebec has breached the Baril-Moses Agreement much of the area has been subjected to large area clear-cutting. With the quantity and quality of the forest left in retention, it seems doubtful that any short-term solution can be found to safe guard woodland caribou in this area.
- However the Crees have proposed a comprehensive approach for woodland caribou preservation and reestablishment in areas that are less degraded than the Baril-Moses traplines.
- Since forestry development is the primary cause of woodland caribou displacement this approach would involve protecting a large block of woodland caribou habitat as advocated by both the Chief Forester and Quebec’s Woodland Caribou Reestablishment Committee.
- This large protected area would then be buffered by smaller temporarily protected habitat zones. Among these zones forestry operations directed at limiting the duration and impact would be allowed by employing a combination of silvicultural works and road closures in the post logging phase.
Will this ensure the caribou’s survival?
- While it would be irresponsible to claim that any given approach would “guarantee” the long-term survival of woodland caribou, it is also irresponsible for the Government of Quebec to continue on its current course when the Chief forester and leading biologists have cautioned otherwise.
- Considering the consensus between the Chief Forester and caribou biologists over protecting large areas of habitat, the Crees Broadback Watershed Conservation Plan offers a solution.
- With nearly 13,000 square kilometers of protection and additional 10,000 square kilometers of buffering special management areas, the Broadback Watershed Conservation Plan would provide a significant refuge for two of Eeyou Istchee three woodland caribou herds. As it stands now, this proposal is the best option that the Government of Quebec currently has for doing something significant to protect this endangered species.