A Right to Profit

A Right to Profit

Money, a court rules, is worth more than human life

(c) Kim Goldberg, 1996

Originally published in the Nanaimo Times
Nanaimo, British Columbia
Tuesday, February 27, 1996, page A5

All rights reserved by author Kim Goldberg; reprinted with author's permission

Daishowa Inc., the Toronto-based subsidiary to the Japanese pulp and paper giant, has decided to celebrate Canada's Freedom to Read Week (Feb. 26-March 3) by ensuring that you cannot read the following information:

"Until a few years ago, the Lubicon (Cree of northern Alberta) were a self-reliant people who lived off the land. (In the late 1970s) government-supported oil and gas development...devasted the traditional economy and lifestyle of the Lubicon by ruining the environment and driving away wildlife. Unbridled resource exploitation has forced 90 percent of the people onto welfare and is destroying the community... Chief Bernard Ominayak (of Lubicon Lake Band) has stated: 'If we allow (Daishowa) to clearcut, we may as well sign our death certificates.'"
The preceding text, taken from a leaflet used by the Friends of the Lubicon in their consumer boycott campaign against Daishowa, was outlawed last month by an Ontario appellate court that believes a corporation's right to turn a tidy profit supercedes your constitutional right to free expression.

The appeal court ruled that the entire boycott campaign was illegal because its primary intent was to cause economic damage to Daishowa.

This anti-democratic, Charter-busting verdict is essentially a pre-emptive veto against all future consumer boycotts in the province of Ontario and beyond, since all successful boycotts by definition will have an economic impact on the company targetted. That's the point, eh.

Unless the Jan. 23 ruling is overturned on higher appeal, Friends of the Lubicon can no longer distribute factually correct information to Daishowa's corporate customers or to citizens on the street who are about to patronize a retailer using Daishowa products.

Daishowa's involvement in the ongoing cultural of the Lubicon Cree began in 1989 when the Alberta government granted Daishowa logging rights to 10,000 square kilometres of unceded Lubicon territory.

In 1990 Daishowa opened its gigantic bleached kraft pulp mill on the Peace River (the company's biggest overseas investment ever), requiring some 11,000 trees daily. That same year Daishowa began logging the Lubicon's ancestral territory.

At the request of the Lubicon Nation, the Toronto-based Friends of the Lubicon launched a consumer boycott campaign against Daishowa in 1991. The Friends state that 47 companies, comprising 4,300 retail outlets across Canada, have now joined the campaign and have chosen alternative paper suppliers.

Daishowa claims the boycott has cost it $8 million to date. The company lost the first court battle to muzzle its critics last May. Unfortunately for Daishowa, the case was heard by a judge who was acquainted with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

But Daishowa lucked out on appeal, which demonstrates that if you throw enough money at a problem for long enough, the problem will disappear (along with democracy in this case).

According to Friends of the Lubicon, all Daishowa needed to do to legitimately end the boycott campaign and win back lost customers was issue a public statement guaranteeing the company would not log or buy wood cut on unceded Lubicon territory until a land rights settlement is reached with both levels of government and a timber harvesting agreement has been negotiatied with the Lubicon which respects Lubicon wildlife and environmental concerns.

Daishowa's response? "The Friends of the Lubicon think the livelihood of a hundred families is worth sacrificing for giving some Indians some land rights," said Tom Cochrane, Daishowa's director of corporate development, according to the Feb. 8 edition of Toronto Varsity News.

At last the truth comes out: The adverse impact of our rapacious activity is ultimately irrelvant, Daishowa is essentially telling us, because the victims whose land and livelihood we are destroying are just "some Indians."

Prior to 1980 less than ten percent of the Lubicon were on welfare. Today that figure tops 95 percent. One third of the population has contracted tuberculosis. Alcoholism, suicides and still births are soaring.

The Lubicon are witnessing their own extermination. But thanks to the Ontario Divisional Court and the bottomless pockets of Daishowa, you can't be told.

Friends of the Lubicon can be contacted at 485 Ridelle Ave., Toronto, Ont. M6B 1K6, ph: 416 763-7500, fax: 416-603- 2715.

Kim Goldberg is a Nanaimo Times columnist & freelance journalist. Her latest article about political activism on the Internet (complete with video clips of the Shuswap Sundancers at Gustafsen Lake last summer) can be browsed at: http://www.incontext.ca/spidweb/feb15_96/news/social.htm

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