[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 - There could be a break soon in the logjam over aboriginal timber rights in New Brunswick. Tim Paul, a spokesman for native loggers, says that, despite tough talk and threats of road blockades from some aboriginal persons, a peaceful resolution is in the works. Mr. Paul, president of the Native Loggers Business Association, said yesterday a settlement offer is being prepared and should be ready for presentation to the provincial government on Monday. "We'll see if we can resolve this peacefully," Mr. Paul said. The New Brunswick government has offered aboriginal loggers 5 per cent of the annual allowable cut as an interim solution to the impasse over native logging on disputed Crown land. At present that share would be 20,000 cubic metres.
But aboriginal people feel they are entitled to more, pointing to 18th century treaties that suggest the crown lands of New Brunswick are in fact aboriginal lands that were never ceded nor sold. The aboriginal right to harvest and sell Crown timber was struck down last month by the province's Court of Appeal, overturning the decision of two lower courts. Mr. Paul said he is concerned that some natives have reached the boiling point and may take matters into their own hands. Their were threats this week from some native loggers at the Big Cove reserve in eastern New Brunswick, who warned they may block highways next week if matters are not resolved satisfactorily.
"There is a lot of tension right now," said logger Brian Francis of Big Cove. The Liberal government began its crackdown on wildcat loggers last week. Enforcement officers have seized six lumber trucks to date and warned mills they will be charged if they buy native-cut lumber. "One day you think you're making progress and then the following day, seven or eight new sites start up. It's very difficult to manage," said Deputy Premier Doug Tyler, pointing out the problem is being driven by the non-native community. For example, most of the trucks have been driven by non-aboriginal drivers. Tyler said if the aboriginal people would leave the logging area, it would be easier to negotiate a settlement and the threat of violence would disappear.