Response from Canadian Boreal Initiative Re: My Concerns about the 'Boreal Forest Agreement' (Peter Miller)
Clearcutting in the Duck Mtn.FOLKS, FOR THOSE FOLLOWING THE RECENT BOREAL FOREST AGREEMENT, HERE IS AN EXCHANGE BETWEEN LARRY INNES OF THE CANADIAN BOREAL INITIATIVE AND JOHN HUMMEL. THANKS TO BOTH FOR THIS POSTING.
by Mary Jane Eichler
by Mary Jane Eichler
Since this agreement has implications for all Canadians and Indigenous Nations, I was surprised that none of the signatories to this agreement posted the entire agreement (including all associated schedules and maps) on their websites. It is sad that it was only made public through a leak to the Vancouver Media co-op after they were refused a copy of it by signatories to the agreement.
It is too bad that Indigenous Nations were not significantly consulted on this agreement before it was signed. Please see the 'United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People' Articles 32 and 37 in particular: http://issuu.com/karinzylsaw/docs/un_declaration_rights_indigenous_peoples?mode=embed&layout=http%3A%2F%2Fskin.issuu.com%2Fv%2Fdark%2Flayout.xml&showFlipBtn=true
This lack of involvement, consultation and respect when the agreement was initially being discussed has upset many Indigenous People. What Indigenous community would sign onto a 'done deal' they had no significant part in right from the start. For that matter, what ENGO would sign onto a deal like that other than the ones who signed it.
The fact that the details of the agreement were not seen by most people until it was leaked and already a fait acompli has upset many people as well.
One big question I have is about Domtar who did not sign onto your agreement, Domtar has a pulp mill at Dryden Ontario which continues to poison Grassy Narrows First Nation. Here's what they are presently releasing into the air, land and also the waters of the Wabigoon River: http://www.ec.gc.ca/pdb/websol/querysite/facility_history_e.cfm?opt_npri_id=0000000928&opt_report_year=2008 Obviously not the best ecological practices on the part of Domtar!
Who supplies the chips to Domtar's Dryden pulp mill so they can continue poisoning Grassy Narrows? Could it be Weyerhaeuser or another of the signatories to the Boreal Forestry Agreement? If so, perhaps you can persuade the forest industry signatories to your agreement to stop supplying woodchips to that mill if they are indeed doing so? Also, how about the other signatories to your agreement? Here's what Howe Sound Pulp and Paper dumps on a regular basis: http://www.ec.gc.ca/pdb/websol/querysite/facility_history_e.cfm?opt_npri_id=0000001419&opt_report_year=2008 Where do you think the Boreal forests are going? Partly into Pulp and Paper Mills which spew this stuff all over the environment. This couldn't be good for the caribou or anything else that lives. Especially the people who eat those caribou. Does your agreement even consider the pollution your partners produce?
Anyway, I've mainly worked on pollution/health issues over all these years. I hope you will consider what I have said as I will consider what you have said here more carefully.
One thing you are probably not aware of is that Suncor Energy Inc., who is a member of the council of your group 'Canadian Boreal Initiative' is presently releasing 51.136 kilograms of mercury from its smokestack at Fort McMurray. That's huge! They have no plans to even reduce that amount, in fact, they plan to increase it to 65 kilograms of mercury releases into the foreseeable future! : http://www.ec.gc.ca/pdb/websol/querysite/substance_details_e.cfm?opt_npri_id=0000002230&opt_cas_number=NA%20-%2010&opt_report_year=2008
This certainly won't be good for communities like Fort Chipewyan who have found mercury in their fish now. Learn from the experience of Grassy Narrows: http://freegrassy.org/wp-content/uploads/Harada_report_2004_FINAL.pdf
If people are a bit reluctant to make peace treaties with these multinationals, perhaps it is because of their continued poisoning of the earth and of all of us. Anyway, all the best to you.
For Land and Life,
John H.W. Hummel
If the ENGO's in your new coalition endorse and promote forest products from the boreal forest being sold (by your new forest industry partners) without considering all the pollution your new friends are causing by producing those products, and the ill health this pollution is doing to land and life then, your agreement can rightly be called 'Green-Wash'. It is wonderful that your forest industry associates will try and improve their clear-cutting practices to try and let some of the Caribou live but, what will they do to curtail all their pollution??! Does this new Boreal Forest Agreement do anything about that? Does it even figure into all this 'Eco-Friendly Branding' you and your ENGO partners have committed to participate in with FPAC (Forest Products Association of Canada)? I am also very concerned about the herbicides and pesticides these forestry companies are spraying on the forests in large quantities.
----- Original Message -----
From: Larry Innes
Sent: Wednesday, May 26, 2010 8:45 AM
Subject: Re: "Details Devil" Forest Agreement
Several people that we both know and respect have forwarded your "Details Devils Greenpeace Forest Deal" note on the recent Boreal forest agreement, seeking my views. I thought that it would be best to share them directly with you, in the expectation that we'd be able to narrow the range of issues on which we may disagree.
As one of the folks involved in hammering out the understanding with the FPAC companies which led to the agreement, I'm well aware of the gamble that the organizations that have chosen to participate in this truce are making. But I want to underscore at the outset that this is a truce--not a surrender.
Entering into this agreement wasn't a decision that anyone made lightly, or without regard to the potential risks involved in abandoning old but reliable approaches. However, we believe there has never been a better time than now to try to take another path towards achieving goals that we have long shared, including demonstrably improved ecosystem-based forest practices, habitat protection for critical species, recognition of the role that Boreal forests play in climate regulation, real prosperity for forest dependent communities, and respect for Aboriginal peoples as decision-makers over their lands and resources. We are committed to trying to advance respectful dialogue on these issues together with industry as an advocate--instead than as an opponent--of positive change, in the belief that governments--especially Aboriginal governments--will be willing to listen and to act on our best advice.
You've expressed particular concerns about the potential for divide-and-conquer strategies to play out in this new approach, and I admit that I share your concerns, but on different grounds. Every progressive movement lives in a tension between the perfect and the good, and I know that we've both seen situations where this tension could not be resolved, and where bitter disputes over the right path forward have divided communities and support movements in irreconcilable ways. I'm all for discussion on the relative merits of different approaches, but I think that it is fair to examine each carefully, and in light of what each side intends. To that end, I'd like to offer the following comments on your commentary:
First, it is important to put the CBFA in proper context. It is an aspirational agreement, based on voluntary commitments between participants and a number of goals which will require a great deal of goodwill and hard work to achieve. It is not legally binding on anyone, even those participating in the agreement. It doesn't compel anyone to do anything against their own interests, and it will either succeed or fail based on the degree to which the trust and commitment that has been developed thus far between participants carries forward over the next few years. Most significantly, success under the agreement ultimately requires actions by others, most notably provincial and Aboriginal governments, who we hope will come to share the goals identified in the agreement and will see value in working with us to help achieve them.
Now on your specific points:
1) The map you've circulated isn't part of the agreement, and was only prepared as background information. Much of the CBFA is concerned with actions on existing FPAC member tenures. The 'commercial forestry zone' was presented as context for situating those FPAC member tenures within the much larger area of land which has already been tenured or otherwise allocated by provincial governments for commercial forestry. The CBFA does not (and could not) designate a 'commercial forestry zone', but all the participants are very mindful of the fact that there is commercial forestry being undertaken on lands and by parties who are not part of the agreement, and are committed to raising the bar for forest practices across the entire boreal.
2) On quashing boycotts and other actions taken by groups outside of the CBFA, I do not share your view that this agreement will prevent such actions from occurring or undermine them in any significant way. There is a clear understanding on the part of the FPAC members that companies outside of this process are subject to continued pressure from the participating market campaign groups, and that everyone is subject to actions taken by those outside of it. If anything, this will assist groups to more effectively contrast bad practices by non-participating companies against the new commitments being made by the FPAC members under this agreement. Where such actions target FPAC members, the CBFA will create new leverage, as FPAC companies can now be held to higher standards on long-contentious issues, ranging from environmental performance to respect for Aboriginal and treaty rights. The agreement provides new mechanisms where participating ENGOs working inside the process may in
fact be helpful to groups outside of the process, which may lend strength to our collective efforts.
3) On recruiting others to become "bound" by the agreement: the CBFA is a voluntary agreement between stakeholders (forest companies and ENGOs), not a land use policy or framework endorsed by governments. While we hope that others will join, and have made provisions for other ENGOs and forest companies to 'sign on' to the CBFA in support of the specific goals and a program of work that it sets out, we did not envision that governments (including Aboriginal governments) would do so. We understand that our role is to offer policy advice and to demonstrate to governments that practical, broadly supported outcomes are possible through voluntary and collaborative measures, in the hope that governments will respond by adopting them. Whether they do so or not is ultimately a decision that they must make, whether individually within their jurisdictions or through own government-to-government processes.
4) On associates and allies being bound by this agreement by virtue of "membership or otherwise": Obviously, third parties cannot be bound, particularly by a non-binding, voluntary agreement. However, everyone who is party to this agreement is involved in networks of relationships with members, shareholders, associates and allies that are not party to the agreement, but who may significantly influence either outcomes or perceptions. In order to build and maintain trust, we have agreed to work together and within our networks to try to build support for the goals and objectives of the CBFA, and to collaboratively address issues where they may arise. This is generally consistent with the idea of a truce, where there will be ongoing efforts to try to build a lasting peace through dialogue, but it is in no way a guarantee that others will not continue or renew hostilities.
5) The specific intent of the specific provision you've highlighted (Schedule A, Goal 6, s. 12, p. 38) is not to, as you suggest, enlist ENGOs as some kind of informant network for forest companies (which was frankly never suggested by FPAC and could not possibly have been agreed to by ENGOs) but instead to anticipate the possibility that an individual or organization closely associated with a participating ENGO or company would make a statement or take a position contrary to the goals and objectives of the CBFA on the market recognition of FPAC member products. This provision commits participants to engaging in dialogue on that issue in order to try to achieve a positive outcome in line with our overall objectives, even if that means admitting that we are wrong on a particular point.
There is another provision (s. 23, p. 12) entitled 'No Surprises' in which the CBFA parties agree to provide reasonable advance notice of activities (ie new advocacy campaigns) which may be sensitive in the context of the agreement, but only where possible and always with a view to resolving problems before they arise. The provision is also clear that information received in confidence (ie, from community or grassroots allies) is protected and will not be shared.
6) Implicit in your critique is the belief that ENGOs will now act against their own interests in order to secure this new relationship with the forest industry. I can guarantee that this is not the case. Remember, this is a truce, not a surrender. The agreement itself (CBFA s. 12, p. 9) is explicit in stating that "FPAC, FPAC Members, and ENGOs acknowledge that in seeking to identify outcomes that will engender broad based support, FPAC, FPAC Members, and ENGOs will each vigorously assert their interests and may not always be able to agree on outcomes that can be jointly supported - where this is the case they will pursue a positive and constructive approach to resolving disputes." From experience, I can say that this is a reflection of what has occurred over the past two years of discussion, and is a good indicator of what we can expect going forward.
In closing, I very much appreciate the validity of your fundamental concern--that this agreement could undermine grassroots struggle. If I believed that was the case, I would not have taken this path, as I recognize that grassroots struggle as a critical driver for change. What I hope this will achieve instead is a new bar by which forest practices and company commitments can be measured and held to account by local communities and others concerned about the fate of the forest. If some companies prove to be intractable, even as the rest of the industry moves ahead of them, I believe this agreement will help in holding them to account.
I'd be pleased to discuss this with you in greater detail, and look forward to your response.
Canadian Boreal Initiative
402-30 Metcalfe St., Ottawa, Ontario K1P 5L4