Written by Brenden Harris
The Ministry of Natural Resources is responding to the concerns of Grassy Narrows First Nation members, when it comes to logging on traditional lands.
Grassy Narrows expressed their concerns, after the MNR approved their ten year forest management plan, which included plans for logging in Grassy Narrow's traditional territory. Jolanta Kowalski of the Ministry of Natural Resources says while there are plans for access, harvest, renewal and tending operations in the First Nation's traditional land use area, they're not looking at licensing and harvesting right away.
According to the ministry, they're will not persue further activity in that area, until the Supreme Court of Canada has rendered it's decision on the appeal of logging rights in the area. Kowalski also outlines that because the Forestry Management Plan outlines the planning phase of forestry operations, all areas must be planned for. They say harvesting activities would not move ahead, until a decision has been made and a license has been issued.
The ministry also says Grassy Narrows is not the only First Nations Community that falls within the area of the traditional lands. They say other communities have been supportive of the provinces efforts, while noting the economic opportunities and the wood supply to local mills. The MNR notes this also includes two mills owned and operated by local First Nations members. According to the ministry, both Wabauskang and Wabaseemoong have been expressing interest in pursuing forestry opportunities.
In her response, Kowalski reiterated that they take treaty rights seriously, and there will be no licensing or harvesting in the Keewatin Lands, until after the Supreme Court of Canada has come to a decision. They also say they'll continue to work with First Nations including Grassy Narrows to come to an agreement.
Members of Grassy Narrows First Nation expressed their concerns, following the approval of Ontario's Forestry Management Plan, which would take effect in 2014. They say the province's logging plan will clear cut much of what mature forest remains on their territory, which raises their concerns about facing another issue with mercury poisoning. They also say the logging will erode their treaty rights, and will impact the families who depend on fishing, hunting and trapping.
Their case against the province is expected to be heard by the Supreme Court in May.