Lines in the Forest: Grassy Narrows, Weyerhaeuser and the CBFA
Less than five months ago, several large environmental groups and logging companies declared a truce to the "war in the woods", a long-standing campaign that frequently targeted customers and investors of companies like Weyerhaeuser, who have continuously pursued large-scale and damaging operations within the Canadian Boreal Forest.
However, to the shock and dismay of some activists in Canada, Grassy Narrows and other Indigenous Nations were shut out of the deal even though they are primary stakeholders who depend on the forest for their cultures and livelihoods.
It is especially troubling since Grassy Narrows has been a leader in the so-called war to protect the Boreal forest along with their territory, their health, their culture and their economy like so many other Indigenous Nations in Canada.
Then there's the fact that some of the NGOs who agreed to the truce--that is, the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement (CBFA)--have staunchly supported Grassy Narrows in the past. But now, it appears that any such support would undermine the conditions of the CBFA.
For instance, "To ensure that the days of Greenpeace dropping banners from Abitibi-Bowater’s HQ are long forgotten, the agreement stipulates that ENGOs will take back whatever bad things they may have said about FPAC [Forest Products Association of Canada] member companies in the past," notes Dawn Paley in an article for the Dominion.
"The ENGOS [also] agreed to express a 'continuum' of support for FPAC members, ranging from 'recognizing that [sic] the leadership represented by the commitment of FPAC Members to develop and implement the CBFA' to 'demonstrating support for products from the boreal operations of FPAC members,'" says Paley.
It's unclear how far this support will go; but there is nonetheless a concern that it could interfere with long-standing struggles like the one led by Grassy Narrows, who's territory was excluded from the protection zones outlined in the CBFA.
It's worth noting that the territory of Grassy Narrows has already been severely depleted, in large part, by one FPAC member: the logging giant Weyerhaeuser. And now it appears that Weyerhaeuser is about to commence another round of logging on Grassy Narrows territory without their consent.
Because of the pending threat, last week Grassy Narrows called for a renewed boycott against the company. In an Open Letter to loggers, retailers and investors dated October 6, 2010, Grassy Narrows Chief Simon Fobister stated that “[w]e continue to call for the boycott and divestment of Weyerhaeuser Corporation due to their violation of our human rights as Indigenous Peoples.” The letter goes on to state that “[w]e will work with our supporters to promote, monitor, and enforce this position.”
Perhaps the letter should have also been sent to Greenpeace, the Canadian Boreal Initiative, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, David Suzuki Foundation and ForestEthics and the other NGOs and Foundations who signed the CBFA with Weyerhaeuser and the other FPAC members.
After all, if they are now obligated to "show support" for Boreal Forest products, than they no different than Boise and AbitibiBowater before they decided to do the right thing, because of the "war."
And if they must also defend the company, then they are also contributing directly to the Canadian government's constitutional delinquency concerning the needs and rights of Indigenous Peoples in Canada.
At this point there are more questions than answers concerning the CBFA and why Indigenous Nations like Grassy Narrows were blatantly ignored by organizations that consider themselves allies. Maybe someone will come forward and set the record straight.
Either way, we can be sure that Grassy Narrows won't back down any time soon; because the "war" for them is, in no uncertain terms, a matter of life and simple survival.