Waswanipi and Greenpeace are launching an online petition to gather international support against further logging of the Broadback River Valley, the last untouched region in the community’s territory.
The two worked together to create the website www.savethebroadback.ca, which hosts a video filmed inside the community that urges the Quebec government to prevent any further encroachment by the forestry industry by designating the Broadback as a protected area. The move follows the signing of the Baril-Moses agreement, which saw 4600 square kilometres of pristine forest remain unprotected.
Logging and road building have already impacted 90% of Waswanipi’s traditional territory and photographs taken during Greenpeace’s visit show both the destruction that has been incurred by logging and the raw beauty of the area that remains untouched.
Nicolas Mainville, spokesperson and forest campaigner for Greenpeace Quebec, told the Nation that the message Waswanipi and Greenpeace have delivered to Quebec, Canada and the rest of the world is loud and clear – the Broadback region is not for sale.
“Through our network the message from Waswanipi has been heard across the world. Offices in Europe, Asia and the United States have all been spreading this message,” he said.
“Waswanipi’s been asking for protection for over 10 years,” Mainville added. “The recent development of the Baril-Moses agreement triggered a very strong reaction [from the community]. Not only from the Chief [Marcel Happyjack] and Deputy Chief [Mandy Gull] but also the tallymen, the trappers’ association, basically the entire community is behind this. Waswanipi’s position is very clear and there’s no margin of manoeuvre for the logging industry.”
Mainville said that Greenpeace has worked with communities in Eeyou Istchee over the years to help with various conservation efforts and the signing of the Baril-Moses agreement provided an opportunity for the organization to strengthen their ties with Waswanipi. In 2010, Greenpeace published a report that identified the Broadback as a key conservation hotspot in Canada.
“There was a confluence of interest at the ecological and cultural level,” Mainville said. “According to our mapping, these areas that have been left out of the Baril-Moses agreement are high density, old growth forests, what you call pristine areas, areas untouched by industry. The Broadback is one of the last remaining areas of this kind.
“After the [Baril-Moses] agreement there was an urgent call from Waswanipi because the agreement failed to deliver what Waswanipi has been asking for so many years. For Greenpeace it was an easy match. Knowing that the community is so mobilized to save this area, it was the least we could do to help amplify the message through the video and the petition.”
Mainville noted that the major purchasers of paper and wood products worldwide are now paying close attention to what’s happening in the Broadback thanks to the international campaign.
“The marketplace is not interested in buying products coming from controversial areas,” Mainville noted, “so it should be a sign to logging companies, especially Resolute Forest Products, who is the biggest player in the area. It would be a pretty disastrous business plan to invest time, money and resources to go try and extract those trees.”
Mainville said that so far there have been more than 200,000 views on the Broadback campaign video, which is posted on YouTube, greenpeace.org and the aforementioned www.savethebroadback.ca. Thousands across Canada have signed the online petition.
“You would expect the Quebec government to prioritize the areas that are under threat and that are the most valuable culturally and ecologically,” Mainville told the Nation. “Not to say that what has been protected [in the Baril-Moses agreement] is not a good thing, but a lot of what got protected was unproductive areas, areas that industry would never have touched.”
According to appendix C of the Baril-Moses agreement, the provincial government has agreed to engage in “meaningful conversation” with the community of Waswanipi regarding their concerns and commitment to protect their land. Mainville said that based on the signed agreement, this is something that should happen “theoretically” no later than December 1.
“There should be negotiations happening soon,” he said. “Hopefully the government will listen to the thousands of people from what Waswanipi and what they intend by ‘meaningful conversation’ is not just imposing the desires of the industry but respecting the desires of the community. The issue is not resolved until the entire Broadback gets full protection.”