Jun 5/98: Natives seek bigger cut of woods


Globe and Mail
June 5, 1998, p. A5
Canadian Press

[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 - Premier Camille Theriault says aboriginals have won a permanent place for themselves in New Brunswick's woods, but the only question now is how significant it will be. "There will be a place in our forest industry for native people but what we need to do now is agree on how much participation," said Mr. Theriault yesterday, a day after native loggers shut down several forestry sites operated by J.D. Irving Ltd. "We have been waiting for a counter-offer to our proposal of five per cent of the annual allowable cut."

While M. Theriault, sworn in as Premier three weeks ago, said the peaceful shutdown is no way to solve the stalemate over aboriginal logging rights on Crown land, Noah Augustine, chief spokesman for native loggers, said it's difficult to achieve consensus among all of the aboriginal communities involved in the logging issue. Mr. Augustine had hoped to have a counter-proposal this week, but is now saying that more discussions are necessary. "It's not clear how long the province will have to wait." There are about 10,000 aboriginal people in New Brunswick, representing about 1.3 per cent of hte province's population.

Mr.Augustine has confirmed, however, that some natives are demanding 30 per cent of the annual harvest this summer as a short term solution - significantly more than the government offer. The lucrative forestry industy is worth about $3-billion annually. New Brunswick natives began developing their own forestry industry last fall after a landmark court ruling that they had a treaty right to Crown lands and forests. However, the provincial Court of Appeal overturned those decisions in April. The government subsequently ordered the natives out of the woods and began a "soft enforcement" campaign of seizing logging trucks and warning mills not to buy native-cut lumber. Virtually all native logging has since stopped.

The aboriginals hope to appeal their case to the Supreme Court of Canada, but their lawyer, Cleveland Allaby, said such a step might be too costly. "I believe in the file. I believe in their ownership of the land," said Mr. Allaby. "But, in the meantime, I quite simply can't afford to go to the Supreme Court of Canada on my credit card." Meanwhile, his clients have two more weeks to seek an appeal. Tim Paul, president of the Native Loggers Business Association, said the money will be raised and the case will proceed. They have raised more than $100,000 for their legal fund to date. It is estimated they will need at least $400,000 for a Supreme Court appeal.

Letters to the Globe and Mail: letters@GlobeAndMail.ca

Letters to the Premier of New Brunswick:

Back to SIS