SAN FRANCISCO – Rainforest Action Network (RAN) praised the decision of logging company AbitibiBowater—the largest paper company in the world—to stop logging on the traditional territory of the Grassy Narrows First Nation. The logging company is the last to cease operations in the million-acre Whiskey Jack Forest that comprises Grassy Narrows traditional territory. Its decision comes in the wake of decades of lawsuits and peaceful protests by the people of Grassy Narrows, including the longest standing logging blockade in North America.
Since 2003, RAN has worked with the Grassy Narrows community to pressure U.S. companies Weyerhaeuser Corp. and Boise Inc. to drop their logging contracts with AbitibiBowater for wood obtained from Grassy Narrows land. In February, following a RAN day of action, Boise agreed to suspend its contract unless community consent could be established. AbitibiBowater’s withdrawal will also force primary customer Weyerhaeuser to stop sourcing wood from the area.
“We are thrilled for the Grassy Narrows community that their forests—which are key to their livelihood and culture—will no longer be clear-cut against their wishes,” said David Sone of RAN’s Old Growth Campaign. “Grassy Narrows has scored a major step forward for Indigenous rights. We’re calling on all companies to follow suit and respect the rights of Indigenous peoples to give or withhold consent for industrial projects on their traditional territories.”
The Canadian constitution and international law affirm First Nations’ rights to provide or withhold consent for industrial projects on their lands. However, Ontario’s mining and logging laws continue to permit resource extraction companies to operate without the consent of First Nations. On May 29, Indigenous groups in Toronto marched and camped on the front lawn of the Ontario legislature with a broad coalition of labor, student and faith-based groups to protest the outdated law.
AbitibiBowater CEO David Paterson wrote in a letter to Ontario’s Natural Resources Minister that “The flexibility of a newly merged company, paired with the current context of an industry that gives access to unused fibre, allow us to temporarily find alternative wood supply for our operations.”
RAN is calling on Abitibi to extend this precedent across its global operations, to respect human rights, and to value the role of intact forests in providing climate stability and clean water.
Rainforest Action Network runs hard-hitting campaigns to break North America’s fossil fuels addiction, protect endangered forests and Indigenous rights, and stop destructive investments around the world through education, grassroots organizing, and non-violent direct action. For more information, please visit: www.ran.org