[S.I.S.I.S. note: The following mainstream news article may contain biased or distorted information and may be missing pertinent facts and/or context. It is provided for reference only.]
Fredericton - Native loggers in New Brunswick have put down their chainsaws and drawn up a peace offer as a show of good faith in the dispute over aboriginal timber rights. Tim Paul, president of the Native Loggers Business Association, said yesterday natives will be asked this week to consider a counter-offer to the province's recent proposal for a share of the wood cut on Crown land. To show their seriousness, Mr. Paul said virtually all native logging has stoppped, except for what he described as a few hard-core cutters determined to stay in the woods at any cost.
As well, he said there will be no protests or blockades while negotiations with the province are at this sensitive and critical stage. "How much more good faith can we show?" said Mr. Paul, who has his own logging company, Thunder East. The New Brunswick government has offered aboriginal loggers five per cent of the annual allowable cut. It is expected natives will ask for more in their counter-offer, based on what they consider a treaty right to the Crown lands and forests of New Brunswick. That treaty right was recognized in two lower courts in the province, but it was rejected by the New Brunswick Court of Appeal in a decision last month that sparked the native protest.
Louella Woods, spokeswoman for the provincial Natural Resources Department, said that as of yesterday, eight lumber trucks have been seized by the province at native cutting sites. There have been no trucks seized since Friday. The province has also warned lumber mills they could be charged if caught with illegally cut native wood. M. Woods said the government will consider the counter-proposal. "We'll have to see what their proposal is," she said. "The government is dealing with the chiefs on the reserves and they're not all in agreement with Tim Paul's group. But I feel they'll at least consider the proposal.
Mr. Paul said the chiefs will be asked to take the counter-proposal to government once the plan is approved at a general meeting. Such a gathering could be held as early as today. Meanwhile the regional chief of the Warriors Society said plans are on hold for a convoy of logging trucks to protest the crackdown. "We have to wait and see what the province has to give to the people and if the people accept that," Frank Thomas said from the Tobique reserve north of Fredericton. "Its the people's choice and if the people feel it's right, we'll support it. But if there's trickery in it, we can't support it. Mr. Thomas, who is from Nova Scotia, also said there won't be any road blockades.