First Nations negotiate new forest deal with Ontario

Nipissing First Nation (ICC) 9-08

First Nations in Ontario are embarking on a new process to build their economies by negotiating a new forestry deal with the Government of Ontario.

Recently the Anishinabek Nation announced the establishment of Forestry Framework Agreement negotiations with the Ministry of Natural Resources that will enable their 42 member First Nations to have better access to forest allocations as well as stronger involvement in forest management planning, opportunities for economic development and capacity building.

“Our goal is to be a more active participant in the resource-based economy by solidifying our involvement in forest industry,” said Grand Council Chief John Beaucage. “These forestry negotiations mark a significant milestone for our Anishinabek Forestry Commission and the development of a sustainable, First Nations economy.”

The concept of a Forestry Framework Agreement was the brainchild of the recently established Anishinabek Forestry Commission, which was mandated to provide recommendations to the Grand Council Chief and the 42 First Nation Chiefs of the Anishinabek Nation on all matters related to forestry policy, forest management and economic matters related to the industry. The Commission consists of First Nation representatives from each of the four regions of the Anishinabek Nation territory.

“Through this negotiation process we will ensure that we protect and implement our treaty right to the forest resources, ensure we obtain benefit in the forest industry and ensure our policy proposals and alternatives are implemented within Ontario’s forest management regime,” said Chief Commissioner Wilfred King, who is chairperson of the Anishinabek Forestry Commission.

Grand Council Chief Beaucage says the Anishinabek Nation is well aware of the pressures being faced by the forest industry illustrated by mill closures, job losses and dwindling profit margins. However, he says that “First Nations are poised to enable a new way of doing business in the forest industry through community-based forestry operations.”

“There are still many challenges to overcome, namely the sustainability of the forest sector,” said Beaucage. “These negotiations will look at new ways of doing business. The big-business monopolies of the past need to make way to enable small business and community-based opportunities.”

An agreement on a forestry framework will be a significant achievement considering the low-level of Anishinabek participation in the Ontario forest sector currently. Historically, Ontario’s forest policy has been reactionary to First Nations involvement, having to abide by regulatory terms and conditions, Supreme Court decisions on consultation and other factors. A new Forestry Framework Agreement will commit the Government over the long term, to make policy change and take a proactive approach which will strengthen and institutionalize the role of Anishinabek communities in forest management.

Marci Becking
Communications Officer

Union of Ontario Indians

(705) 497-9127 ext. 2290

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