May 28/98: Kennedy supports native loggers


Victoria Times-Colonist
May 28, 1998, p. A9
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.]

Eel Ground, N.B. - Native loggers in New Brunswick got some high profile support for their cause on Wednesday from prominent US environmentalist Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. Kennedy was diplomatic when asked to comment on the dispute over aboriginal access to New Brunswick's Crown lands and forests, but he was clearly sympathetic to the native position. "I believe the natives have not gotten their rights on this issue," Kennedy said as he arrived at this tiny native community to address an environmental conference. "I think that all across Canada and all across the United States native people, without losing a battle, without signing a contract, without getting a dime for their land in many cases, have been moved off lands that were part of their traditional homelands."

Kennedy, an environmental attorney and a member of the famous family that has long played a key role in US politics, was in New Brunswick to promote ecological awareness as part of a three day conference organized by the Winnipeg-based Centre for Indigenous Environmental Resources. Aboriginal loggers are defying the New Brunswick government by continuing to commercially harvest wood on Crown lands, despite the fact that several logging trucks have been seized by the province. Two lower courts said New Brunswick natives have a treaty right to cut and sell Crown timber, but the Court of Appeal struck down those rulings last month and the province ordered native loggers off government land.

"In many cases, those lands both in the United States and in Canada have been taken over by people who use political clout to escape the discipline of the free market, to move on to those lands with contracts that really undervalue the resources," Kennedy said. "I can't tell you in this particular case whether that happened...but I can tell you that is a very common occurrence and in places where that has occurred, the native people have not gotten a fair deal." Kennedy's comments were welcomed by native loggers at the conference. "It's very encouraging," said Noah Augustine, a spokesman for the Micmac, Maliseet Coalition, which represents loggers. "I would suggest that if the provincial government won't listen to the native peoples of New Brunswick, perhaps it'll listen to someone with the profile of Mr. Kennedy."

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