Written by Brenden Harris
Minister of Natural Resources David Orazietti is responding to a declaration signed by three First Nations chiefs earlier this week. The chiefs were hoping to take over the management of the Whiskey Jack Forest. He says the declaration signed by Grassy Narrows, Wabauskang and Whitefish Bay causes some mild concern.
"I think it's a bit concerning in that there are about nine different First Nations and groups that are in the Treaty 3 area. We want to make sure that all First Nations are sharing the benefit and we are interested in creating an enhanced sustainable forestry license in the area, where First Nations would be directly involved in the management of that forest," he said.
He says there have been First Nations that have voiced their interest in becoming involved with logging in the region. He says he believes there's a more viable approach that can be taken to help create benefits for all parties involved.
"I think there's a more constructive approach that we can take with all First Nations working together on an ESFL on the Whiskey Jack. There is tremendous potential here, it's underutilized There are people that are not benefiting from the fibre in the area that don't have jobs today that could have jobs if we could agree on the process," he said.
Orazietti says he would like to see all of the First Nation communities in the area come to the table to discuss forest management in the area.
"I'd like to see an enhanced sustainable forestry license model with all of the partners at the table developed in this area, with First Nations playing a leading role in the management of this unit. It's going to take the cooperation of all First Nations communities because there seems to be some different perspectives from one First Nation to another with respect to the approach here," he said.
He also noted the approaching date for Grassy Narrows to make their case to the Supreme Court of Canada. He says no matter what the verdict, the government and First Nations will still need to find a way to work together.
"Regardless of what the courts say, we need to find a way to work together constructively because after the courts make their ruling and make their decision, there will continue to be nine First Nations in Treaty 3, and other stakeholders and interests in the area. There's communities and business that have an interest in this area. We want to see greater cooperation and greater coordination in respect to the management of the Whiskey Jack Forest," he said.
The declaration by the chiefs came less than two weeks after Grassy Narrows Chief Simon Fobister spoke of positive meetings with Orazietti and Aboriginal Affairs Minister David Zimmer.