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Broadback: Cree First Nation and Coalition to Urge Quebec to Take a Stand to Protect One of Last Intact Forests

Quebec City, February 22, 2016—As the Environmental and Social Impact Review Committee (COMEX) assesses a project by the logging industry to build two access roads into the Broadback forest, the Cree First Nation, several environmental groups and scientific experts are joining forces to save one of Quebec's last pristine forests and asking the government to fully protect the Broadback Forest.

Commenting on recent remarks by Premier Couillard on the importance of protecting environmental resources such as Anticosti Island, Marcel Happyjack, chief of the Cree First Nation of Waswanipi, made a direct link to the Broadback issue. “I understand his position and his desire to protect an important natural area. That same logic should be applied to the Broadback forest, the last 10% of intact boreal forest on our traditional territory, and one of our best tools against climate change,” said Chief Happyjack at a news conference in Quebec City.

Similar to Anticosti, the Broadback River Valley is a unique and beautiful area and it is currently threatened by new logging operations. It is a vital area for rare old-growth trees and one of the last refuges for threatened species such as the Woodland caribou. It is also a vital area for the Cree people, as the Cree way of life and economy are still reliant on abundant, healthy animals and plants from an uncompromised environment. But, as forestry continues to push further and further north, insufficient critical habitat remains to support viable caribou populations.

For years, Waswanipi has been calling for the complete protection of this portion of the forest. Again, at the public hearing held by COMEX on January 19, in Waswanipi, the community unanimously and unequivocally expressed its opposition to new forestry activity in this area. In addition, more than 9,000 people wrote to COMEX asking that the project be rejected via www.savethebroadback.ca . “Now is the time for action. We urge the Quebec government to respect the Cree Nation and our way of life and to protect the entire Broadback”, said Waswanipi Chief.

“Our land has been heavily impacted by forestry and other development activities for decades. It is now time to save what is left before its too late. I urge Premier Couillard to respect the Cree Nation of Waswanipi's aim and protect the Broadback forest as soon as possible", added Romeo Saganash, MP for Abitibi-Baie-James-Nunavik-Eeyou and member of the Cree First Nation of Waswanipi.

Recent efforts not enough

In a recent agreement to resolve the dispute with the Cree Nation over the implementation of the 2002 Baril-Moses agreement, Quebec protected an area north of the Broadback River. While it was a fine gesture, it was not enough since it ignores the vast majority of the land that needs protection.

Quebec has agreed to set up a committee with Waswanipi and the Cree Nation government to find solutions, but, to date, the committee has not made any real progress. This is why Waswanipi is now urging the Quebec government to publicly reiterate its commitment to complete the Broadback protected area, and to enter in a meaningful and timely negotiation process that would lead to the announcement of the full protection of the Broadback by July 2016.

In this regard, the Quebec government can take the example of the British-Columbia government, which just signed an agreement with First Nations and the industry for protect the Great Bear Rainforest, which will now be conserved and protected from forestry. This recent agreement shows what can be achieved when everyone acts in good faith.

Coalition #savethebroadback

Today’s news conference was also a demonstration of solid widespread support inside and outside the Cree Nation. Attending the event were Romeo Saganash, MP for Abitibi-Baie-James-Nunavik-Eeyou, Melissa Filion from Canopy, Nicolas Mainville from Greenpeace, Pier-Olivier Boudreault from CPAWS, as well as biologist and caribou expert Serge Couturier.

“Our message is clear: no more development can be allowed in the Broadback River Valley, for the sake of our planet, the survival of the caribou and the protection of our Cree way of life,” concluded Chief Happyjack.

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SOURCE:  
Jean-Alexandre D’Etcheverry
Cell: 514-910-1328
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Press Release:
Agreement to Resolve Baril Moses Dispute:
Cree Nation of Waswanipi Calls for Protection of its Last Intact Forests

Waswanipi, July 13th 2015. Parallel to today’s announcement by the Quebec Government and the Cree Nation Government on the protection of 9134 km² of land in Eeyou Istchee, the Cree Nation of Waswanipi calls for complete protection of their proposed Protected areas, and a complete stop to all logging and road building within their last intact areas of traditional land. The community membership unanimously opposed today’s announcement related to protection in the Broadback area since it ignores the vast majority of Waswanipi's proposed protected area and opens the door to new logging and road building, thus threatening unique ecological and cultural heritage on Waswanipi land . The additional letter attached to the Agreement for today’s signing ceremony to confirm “meaningful discussions” with involvement of the Cree First Nation of Waswanipi was unanimously rejected by Council and affected tallymenn as it does not mention the southern portions of the Broadback which were included in original proposals submitted by the community.

“We have witnessed 90% of our traditional land being heavily logged and fragmented by the industry. Today we declare that the last 10% that is still intact shall remain pristine for the next generations to come” has declared Chief Marcel Happyjack of the Waswanipi Cree Nation. The Protected Areas are viewed as an issue separate from the Baril-Moses Dispute by the community. “From now on, any trees cut within our last intact forests shall be considered as highly controversial onto the international markets”.

Waswanipi, a Cree community in the Nord-du-Quebec region, will outreach to international markets asking large wood, pulp and paper customers to avoid buying products coming from the pristine Broadback area. The Broadback Valley is also viewed by the international community as an essential forest in the battle against climate change, storing more carbon dioxide per hectare than the Amazon forest.

Despite more than 10 years of negotiations, meetings, proposals and counterproposals, the Quebec government still refuses to protect the last intact forests on Waswanipi lands, home to endangered woodland caribou and key elements of the Cree way of life. A majority of areas submitted for protection fall above the northern limit that cannot be harvested by Forestry operations and consist of mainly burnt forest.

Following Chief and Band Council, Cree Trappers and General Assembly resolution, the Crees of Waswanipi state their disagreement to their last unaffected traplines being harvested as a solution. Today’s announcement will save less than 30% of last pristine areas, they will continue to fight for legal protection of the last standing Intact Forest, and view this agreement as a process undertaken without their Consent.

“Our Community, our Hunting Leaders, our Cree First Nation Council, our NGO allies and the scientific community all agree that the value of our last intact forest is much greater than what the industry can make of it by cutting down our trees, fragmenting our forest and deteriorating our land” declared Chief Happyjack. “Our connection to the land is at the core of our Cree culture and we will stay committed to protect our last intact forests by communicating directly to the public, international buyers and other stakeholders.”

For further information please contact:
Chief Marcel Happyjack, Deputy Chief Mandy Gull, Steven Blacksmith
(819) 753-2587 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Source: Broadback Position of the CFNW - For Immediate Release and Distribution (PDF)

See also: Cree First Nation of Waswanipi Proposed Protected Areas
SCHEDULE-D-WASWANIPI-PROPOSED-PROTECTED-AREA

 

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