30 March 2015
Grassy Narrows: It’s not too late for the Ontario government to do the right thing
In a joint statement issued today, 16 social justice organizations, faith groups, trade unions, and environmental organizations are calling on Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne to immediately withdraw the province’s 10 year plan for clearcut logging on the traditional territory of the Grassy Narrows First Nation.
The organizations are particularly alarmed by the province’s refusal to conduct an environmental impact assessment of its logging plans, despite acknowledgement that runoff from clearcutting could lead to the introduction of more mercury into the river system.
In the 1960s, the province allowed an upstream pulp and paper mill to dump massive quantities of mercury into the river. The river system has never been cleaned up and the people of Grassy Narrows are still dealing with a severe health crisis.
“It’s shocking that the province would risk making the situation even worse for the people of Grassy Narrows by logging their forests against their will,”said Maude Barlow, Chairperson of the Council of Canadians. “The first priority must be to clean up the contaminated river system and address the urgent health needs of the community.
Logging at Grassy Narrows was halted in 2008 after a community-led campaign to protect the forest and the traditional way of the life of the Anishinaabe people led a series of major corporations to stop logging and handling wood from Grassy Narrows.
Despite continued opposition from Grassy Narrows, the province has continued to press for renewed industrial logging, including in its latest 10 year forest management plan, adopted in December 2013.
“The rights at stake require the highest standard of protection, especially given the harms that the people of Grassy Narrows have already suffered,” said Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada. “Protections for Indigenous rights under Canadian and international law require that the province’s plans should be subject to careful scrutiny and must not go forward against the wishes of the people of Grassy Narrows.”
The joint statement quotes a recent Supreme Court of Canada decision (Grassy Narrows v. Ontario) which said that hunting, trapping and fishing rights protected by Treaty 3 “must be respected”in future decisions about logging and other use of the land.
“For years, Canadian courts have been telling governments that they must act honourably to uphold the rights set out in Treaties and affirmed in the Constitution and international law,” said Lana Robinson, Clerk of the Canadian Friends Service Committee (Quakers). “For governments to selectively ignore their legal obligations when it comes to Indigenous Peoples is a form of discrimination pure and simple.”
“The people of Grassy Narrows are owed a debt of justice,” said Shane Moffatt of Greenpeace Canada. “Upholding their rights is a matter of concern to all Canadians who value reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples.”
“This letter is one more demonstration that Ontarians want their elected representatives to respect the rights of the people of Grassy Narrows,” said Paul Elliott, President of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation. “It’s time that the provincial government listened to this call for justice.”
The joint letter was endorsed by:
Amnesty International Canada
Canadian Friends Service Committee (Quakers)
Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE)
Coalition for a Liveable Sudbury
Council of Canadians
David Suzuki Foundation
Indigenous Environmental Network
KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives
Mining Injustice Solidarity Network
No One Is Illegal – Toronto
Ontario Federation of Labour
Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation
Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) – Ontario
For media inquiries, please contact:
Amnesty International Canada
Media Relations (Toronto)
(416) 363-9933 ext 332