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.
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.