Sep 11/98: Natives arrested as dispute resurfaces


Canadian Press
September 11, 1998

[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.]

HARCOURT, N.B. (CP) - Theres a new flashpoint in the native logging dispute in New Brunswick. Nine people were arrested near this eastern New Brunswick community on Thursday after native loggers from the nearby Big Cove reserve tried to stop trucks from entering woods leased to J.D. Irving Ltd., the province's largest forestry company.

RCMP Sgt. Roger Somers said seven adults and two youths were arrested at the scene. They are to be charged with causing mischief. "They were stopping trucks from going into woods," Somers said. "But right now, everything is quiet and peaceful. We have members on the scene and were just trying to control the situtation. So far, so good."

The Big Cove reserve on the Northumberland Strait is the largest in New Brunswick, with roughly 2,000 Micmac residents.

However, the reserve has not been able to strike a deal with the province of New Brunswick for a share of the harvest from Crown forests this year. Several other reserves have reached temporary logging agreements that have helped defuse tensions over the issue of aboriginal cutting rights on Crown lands.

Native loggers are hoping to have a test case on the issue heard by the Supreme Court of Canada, but the court has yet to decide whether it will consider the matter.

New Brunswick First Nations claim they still hold title to what are now the Crown lands and forests of New Brunswick. Two lower courts in the province upheld that view, ruling that natives have first right to Crown timber. However, the New Brunswick Court of Appeal recently struck down those decisions.

Brian Francis, a logger at Big Cove, said he's worried the police action on Thursday will heighten tensions. "I can see the whole thing escalating," Francis said.

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