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Fight Against Logging will Continue for Grassy Narrows Despite Supreme Court Setback

by Kelly Pflug-Back

Fight Against Logging will Continue for Grassy Narrows Despite Supreme Court Setback

The Supreme Court of Canada ruled today that the government of Ontario is entitled to exercise logging rights which it stated were granted to the Canadian state under Treaty 3, which ceded large portions of what is now known as North-Western Ontario to the Queen in 1873.


Leaders at Grassy Narrows argued in the court case that the federal government is obligated under Treaty 3 to protect Grassy Narrows' lands from provincial and corporate actions, namely clear-cut logging.


According to Joseph Fobister, a Grassy Narrows hunter who helped initiate the case, “This has been a long fight and while we are disappointed in today’s outcome we will be continuing to fight to protect the health, welfare and culture of the people of Grassy Narrows using all the tools available to us. We believe Ontario and industry are morally and politically obliged to seek our consent before logging our lands. Our people will ensure that the government, public, corporations, and courts never forget the terrible effect that industrial logging has had on the health and welfare of our people."


The SCC's ruling, however, does not give provincial actors a green light for logging activities.

The province of Ontario is still legally required to consult with Grassy Narrows before undertaking projects which could impact their rights. The SCC also requires that Ontario ensure that there are enough natural resources left to allow for the “meaningful exercise of the rights.”


The ruling comes on the heels of a separate ruling last month that saw the SCC recognize aboriginal title for the first time in Canada. The court recognized the Tsilhqot’in’s title to over 1,700 square kilometres of land in the B.C. Interior, though the Tsilhqot’in nation had not signed a treaty with the Canadian government.


“Grassy Narrows will continue our long fight to protect our health, our way of life, and our environment following our own laws and teachings,” said spokespeople for the nation. Pointing out that human rights and environmental standards have not been respected in the past by either the government and corporations, they vowed to continue opposition to clear-cut logging on their lands.


“We will stand to protect our people and our forests from clearcut logging in the legislature, in the market place, in the courts, and on the land,” they said. “We invite Ontario and Canada to engage with us in good faith to build a positive relationship based on respect for our way of life, recognition of our rights, restoration of our health and our environment, and meaningful reconciliation. In this day and age, it is widely recognized that it is wrong, and unwise to force industrial extraction on Indigenous communities against our will.”


A public forum with Grassy Narrows and Stephen Lewis is being held on July 29th in Toronto. River Run, a walk with Grassy Narrows for clean water and indigenous rights, leaves Grange Park in Toronto on July 31st at noon.


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Topics: Indigenous

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