Boise stops buying lumber from the Grassy Narrows territory
The Grassy Narrows First Nation is an Ojibwa First Nation located 80km north of Kenora, Ontario. You have no doubt heard the term “Grassy Narrows” many times over the last 30 years – usually in conjunction in a blockade or civil unrest. In fact they have been blocking the logging road in their territory for over 5 years.
Let’s take a look at the recent history of the Grassy First Nations.
Back in the 1950′s Ontario Hydro built two major dams at Ear Falls and Whitedog, causing significant and unpredictable fluctuations in water levels which affected wild rice beds, the habitat of fur-bearing animals and the local fishery for the Grassy Narrows’ people.
Then in the 1960′s the Canadian Government moved their community to a near-by area that was accessible by road, in order to provide the people with Governmental services. This included a school, which allowed the children of the Grassy Narrows to stay in their community, rather than being relocated to residential schools.
The people of the Grassy Narrows First Nation have long had issues with the lumber companies in their area dating back to 1970 when they experienced mercury poisoning from Dryden Chemical Company, a chloralkali process plant, located in Dryden, Ontario that supplied both sodium hydroxide and chlorine used in large amounts for bleaching paper during production for the Dryden Pulp and Paper Company. Dryden Chemical company discharged their effluent into the Wabigoon-English River system.
The Ontario provincial government has initially told the First Nation communities to stop eating fish — their main source of protein — and closed down their commercial fishery. Closing of the commercial fishery meant economic disaster for the Native Reserve – the employment rate plummeted from 90% to 10%.
Grassy Narrows First Nation received a settlement in 1985 (15 years after the poisoning) from the Canadian government and the Reed Paper Company that bought-out the Dryden Pulp and Paper Company and its sister-company Dryden Chemical Company, but the mercury was never removed from the water.
Grassy Narrows land is being logged by Weyerhaeuser and AbitibiBowater. The logging is opposed by the Grassy Narrows First Nation. On 2006 February 7, the Nation sent a cease and desist letter to Abitibi and Weyerhaeuser saying:
“For many years our people have suffered from a forced industrial invasion of our forest homeland. Our forests have sustained us for thousands of years, but industrial exploitation of these once rich forests, lakes and rivers has poisoned our waters with mercury and other toxins, nearly eliminating our ability to practice our way of life, and robbed us of economic opportunities. We are not consenting to the clear-cutting of our traditional lands, which is an assault on our culture, our way of life, and indeed our very existence. Leave us alone, let us use our land how we want to use it, let us feed our people how we want to feed them, and then our people will become strong again.”
On September 8, 2007, Ontario announced that it had agreed to begin discussions with Grassy Narrows First Nation on forestry-related issues. The Ontario government appointed former Federal Court of Canada Chief Justice Frank Iacobucci to lead these discussions. Iacobucci’s discussions with Grassy Narrows will focus on, “sustainable forest management partnership models and other forestry-related matters, including harvesting methods, interim protection for traditional activities and economic development.”
On February 27, 2008, Boise Inc.* has released a statement that they will abide by the wishes of Chief Fobister and will no longer purchase wood from the Traditional Use Area of the Grassy Narrows First Nation.
“Addressing longstanding concerns raised by northwest Ontario’s Grassy Narrows First Nation, Rainforest Action Network (RAN), and a coalition of allies, Boise Inc. has notified logging company AbitibiBowater that it will cease purchasing wood fiber logged from Grassy Narrows’ traditional territory in the Whiskey Jack Forest without the Indigenous community’s consent.”
A report is expected from Frank Iacobucci within the month.
Ontario Minamata disease (Wikipedia)
Asubpeeschoseewagong First Nation (Wikipedia)
ONTARIO ENTERS INTO FORESTRY DISCUSSIONS WITH GRASSY NARROWS (Ontario Government)
Boise Inc. to Suspend Purchasing From Grassy Narrows (Rainforest Action Network)
Grassy Narrows Cease and Desist Letter (Grassy Narrows First Nation)
GRASSY NARROWS: HISTORY OF THE FIGHT – Mercury poisoning, clear-cutting and government collusion (New Socialist)
* Boise Inc. was formed following the Aldabra 2 Acquisition Corp. purchase of the paper and packaging assets of Boise Cascade, L.L.C., in February 2008. The company is listed on the NYSE under ticker symbol BZ.
- Grassy Narrows logging suspended during possible appeal
- Wabauskang First Nation still not compensated for mercury poisoning from the Dryden paper mill
- Ontario overturns Grassy Narrows First Nation win: Logging permits can be issued on First Nations land
- Grassy Narrows will appeal Ontario Court of Appeal's decision
- Grassy Narrows First Nation has filed their Supreme Court appeal