Friday, 9 October 2009
Toronto, ON –The Ontario Superior Court began hearing evidence this week in Grassy Narrows’ case against logging on its traditional lands. Grassy Narrows is challenging Ontario’s right to approve industrial logging that interferes with its constitutionally guaranteed treaty rights. The Grassy Narrows trappers have been in the courts for close to a decade fighting to protect Treaty 3, which was signed by the Government of Canada in 1873. The trial is expected to last approximately 75 days.
“We have never given our consent to clearcut logging, and we have never given up our right to live off this land, but the government and the corporations choose to ignore this,” said Grassy Narrows representative Joseph Fobister. “The logging is destroying a way of life for our people, and we cannot allow that.”
In her decision to award costs in advance of trial, Madam Justice Spies wrote “I have no difficulty in concluding that the treaty interpretation issue is an issue of great public importance.”  She further stated that ”in my view this is a serious issue that had not yet been squarely decided or even considered in any case before.”  She explained that “Ontario would be paying a relatively small portion of the revenues it derives from forestry in the Whiskey Jack Forest to have tested, once and for all, the constitutionality of those activities, which are being carried out at the expense of Grassy Narrows.” 
“This historic test case will set a precedent for First Nations communities across the province whose lands are being clear-cut, strip-mined, and polluted for the benefit of multinational resource extraction companies.” said Anastasia Lintner, staff lawyer for Ecojustice.
On September 1, Amnesty International and 20 other organizations renewed their call on the Province to halt all logging in Grassy Narrows territory unless the free, prior and informed consent of the community is given. 
“Decades of failure to uphold the human rights of the people of Grassy Narrows have led to tragic levels of poverty, and ill health,” said Craig Benjamin, Campaigner for the Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples at Amnesty International. “The Province could have avoided being taken to court if it respected the right of Indigenous communities to say ‘no’ to unwanted development on their lands.”
Joseph Fobister, for Grassy Narrows: 807-466-4099
Robert Janes, for JFK Law: 250-888-5269
Kori Brus, for Ecojustice: 416-368-7533
Government and Industry officials failed to heed decades of Grassy Narrows’ official complaints, environmental assessment requests, negotiations, and public protests  giving rise to a peaceful grassroots blockade that has kept logging trucks off highway 671for nearly 7 years – the longest such action in Canadian history.
On June 3 of 2008 David Paterson, CEO of AbitibiBowater, then the largest newsprint producer in the world, yielded to international pressure and informed then Ontario Minister of Natural Resources, Donna Cansfield, that the company would discontinue using wood from Grassy Narrows territory and relinquish its license to log in the area.  AbitibiBowater’s withdrawal has suspended logging on Grassy Narrows territory, and the Band Council has entered into talks with the Province, represented by former Supreme Court Justice Frank Iaccobucci, over the long-term management of Grassy Narrows territory. 
There are growing concerns, however, that the province may have already made up its mind to continue large-scale clear-cut logging in the territory, and in March of 2009 the Province unilaterally approved a plan that identifies 27 areas to be clear-cut on Grassy Narrows territory, including 17 that will be more than 260 hectares in size. 
Seattle based lumber giant Weyerhaeuser is pursuing trees logged on Grassy Narrows territory for its Kenora Trus Joist mill to make Timberstrand products used in homebuilding throughout North America.  On June 15 Calvert Investments deleted Weyerhaeuser from the Calvert Social Index of sustainable and responsible companies due to Weyerhaeuser’s failure to meet the Index’s standards for Indigenous Peoples’ Rights. 
 para 234 Keewatin v. Ontario (Minister Of Natural Resources), 2006 CanLII 35625 (ON S.C.) http://www.canlii.com/eliisa/highlight.do?text=janes&language=en&searchTitle=Ontario+-+Superior+Court+of+Justice&path=/en/on/onsc/doc/2006/2006canlii35625/2006canlii35625.html
 op. cit. para 217
 op. cit. para 237
 Correspondence dating back to 1998 can be found at : http://freegrassy.org/learn_more/resources/official_correspondence/
 Toronto Star, Peter Gorrie, June 5, 2008. Protest prompts Abitibi pullout.
 Kenora Daily Miner and News, Mike Aiken, Dec. 3, 2008.
 Kenora Daily Miner and News, Mike Aiken, March 25, 2009.
 Kenora Daily Miner and News, Mike Aiken, Sept., 2008.