The Atikamekw who demonstrated on a forest road in Manawan on Tuesday considered the long-awaited report carried out by the Ministry of Forests, Wildlife and Parks (MFFP) scandalous.
The document revealed that the harmonization agreement was not respected.
The MFFP as well as the St-Michel sawmill inc. disclaimed all liability.
No compensation or penalty has been provided for the cuts in the sugar bush.
“The orientation of this report proves to us that our rights are indeed treated in the second line,” lamented Glen Dubé, elected councilor of Manawan and responsible for the forestry file.
For three months, the Atikamekw stood guard day and night at km 60 after logging deemed illegal in the family sugar bush.
In the MFFP report, of which TVA obtained a copy, we learned that initially, the harmonization agreement was to protect not only the maple grove at the Naule shipyard, but also mountains for moose ravaging.
The "harmonization" discussions were spread over 18 months and four maps of the sector affected by the cuts were produced to ensure that the demands of the Dubé family were respected.
But in the end, the logging company still built a 500-meter logging road right in the heart of the maple grove. Why?
18 months of discussions, four cards, an agreement... and a last minute change
In the document of about twenty pages, one could read that "the concern of the Ottawa-Dubé family with regard to the stand of maples was clear and was taken into consideration by the ministry by the complete removal of the stand of planning of the construction site" and that "the company Scierie St-Michel inc. was represented at each of the five harmonization meetings and was able to hear the concerns of the family.”
However, after this long process resulting in an agreement, the Sawmill modified the forest work plan by adding a forest road.
The Atikamekw Territorial Resource Center (CRT) received an email, but did not respond to it, relying on the official agreement.
The MFFP has given its approval to the new cutting plan and concludes that “this event is the unintended result of successive failures on the part of the stakeholders involved, the MFFP, the Scierie St-Michel and the CRT.”
These findings sparked anger among the Aboriginal people directly affected.
"Instead of seizing opportunities to place Aboriginal traditions at the service of sustainable forest management, it is as if the government sees only constraints to the comfort of the industry," commented Annette Dubé, family spokesperson.
At the very end of the report, as the ministry authorized the construction of the road in the maple grove, no penalty related to non-compliance with the planning was considered. The MFFP suggested holding discussions to mitigate the impacts of these cuts.
Among the Atikamekw, the response was strong: "the damage is real, the causes stem from a recurring neglect of Aboriginal considerations in the context of forestry activities."
Requested meeting with the minister
The Dubé family requested a meeting with the Minister of Forests, Wildlife and Parks.
In a letter addressed to Pierre Dufour, she reiterated that the practice of the "fait accompli" is symptomatic, both on the part of the ministry and of the forest industry. For her, decades will be needed to restore the maple grove to its original state.
Last Friday, the Atikamekw of Manawan made the decision to continue the demonstration at km 60.
The moratorium on logging also remained in effect on the Nitaskinan, Atikamekw ancestral territory.
The Atikamekw Council of Manawan also indicated that no passage of forestry equipment will be authorized at km 60 on Manawan Road.
As for the St-Michel sawmill and the Champoux Group, they said they intended to resume their forestry activities on June 6, avoiding the sector protected by the Dubé family.
The Sustainable Forest Development Act must take into account the interests, values and needs of Aboriginal communities.
It provides for a consultation process to ensure that their interests, values and needs are taken into account in the sustainable development of forests and the management of the forest environment, and to accommodate them, if necessary.
In Manawan, all the territory chiefs, including the Dubé family, are demanding better respect for their rights and real application of the Act respecting the sustainable development of forest land with respect to obligations towards First Nations.