Blockades in the Boreal
First Nations-Led Victories in Ontario, Canada
It was below zero degrees Fahrenheit on the night of Dec. 2, 2002, when sisters and young Indigenous mothers Chrissy and Bonnie Swain from the Grassy Narrows First Nation drove from their reserve, located in the southern fringe of the vast boreal forest in northern Ontario, to the logging road just a few miles from their home.
The sisters felled trees over the road to protest unwanted logging on their land by Abitibi Consolidated. They then headed home, afraid their father would be mad at them. Instead, he was proud. Their protest was the spark that ignited their small community of 1,000 to launch a sustained direct-action campaign to stop logging.
Read more of Jessica Bell's Alternet article.
In June 2008, after six years of tireless campaigning, the people of Grassy Narrows celebrated victory when AbitibiBowater - the largest paper company in the world - agreed to stop logging in the community's traditional territory and throughout Canada’s million-acre Whiskey Jack Forest. It took decades of lawsuits, letter writing, and meetings with government officials, along with an investigation by Amnesty International, monitoring by Christian Peacemaker Teams, and a RAN campaign against corporate buyers of wood and pulp from the region. It also took the longest-standing logging blockade in North American history, organized and executed by the people of Grassy Narrows.
Just one month later, in July, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty committed to protect 50 percent of the province’s northern boreal forest from all industry, and to allow new logging only with the support of First Nations. The planned protected area is 80 times the size of Yosemite National Park.
It is primarily the work of Indigenous communities like Grassy Narrows, KI, Ardoch, and Six Nations (and their supporters) that created the political and economic impetus for this change. The work goes on as these communities continue the process of asserting their sovereignty, re-claiming their territories and livelihoods, healing their people, and caring for the earth.
RAN and our allies have had the honor of working with some of these courageous communities over the last four years and supporting them with several Protect-an-Acre grants.