‘Longest running’ First Nations blockade continues
Grassy Narrows First Nation marks 10 years of resistance
Jody Porter CBC News, Dec 3, 2012
First Nations activists were back at the blockade on Monday after celebrating a decade of turning back logging trucks from Grassy Narrows traditional lands.
The road block first went up at Slant Lake, about 600 km northwest of Thunder Bay, on Dec. 2, 2002.
“When the cops showed up, they were telling us ‘you can’t do this, what you’re doing is illegal’ and all this stuff,” said Grassy Narrows community member Judy DaSilva. “It was scary.”
‘The forest is part of who we are’
But not as frightening as watching the forest surrounding the community being clear cut, she said.
“Because of the forest suffering, we as a people also suffer because … the forest is a part of who we are,” DaSilva said. “It’s a part of our lives and anything that destroys that, we feel it right away.”
DaSilva said the police eventually recognized the blockade as a peaceful protest and so it has gone on to become what environmental groups call “the longest running Indigenous logging blockade in Canada.”
It also led to a significant court decision.
In 2011, Ontario’s Superior Court ruled the province cannot authorize timber and logging if the operations infringe on federal treaty promises protecting aboriginal rights to traditional hunting and trapping.
The province is appealing the ruling, but a spokesperson for Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources said the province recognizes the importance of the forest surrounding Grassy Narrows.
“That’s why we’re interested in continuing the conversation with Grassy Narrows and all partners,” Jolanta Kowalski said.
Several forestry companies have stopped logging in the area, including Resolute (formerly AbitibiBowater) Boise and Domtar, but Weyerhauser continues to seek access to lands people from Grassy Narrows want to protect.
‘We’re still here’
“For me, the anniversary just marks that we’re still here and we’re still going to be opposing the destruction of the forest,” DaSilva said.
Grassy Narrows Chief Simon Fobister said he is proud of the work ordinary people in his community have done to stand up for their rights.
“It’s individuals that carry those rights and freedoms and they banded together to express that to the general public,” Fobister said. “I think that’s the big difference.”
Grassy Narrows Blockaders Protest Logging on 10 Year Anniversary of Blockade
Kenora, ON – Today, Grassy Narrows Blockaders are peacefully picketing a massive logging operation on the Caution Lake Road, 30 km north of the trans-Canada highway off Highway 671 near Kenora. The action falls on the 10 year anniversary of Grassy Narrows’ Slant Lake blockade, now the longest running Indigenous logging blockade in Canadian history. The industrial logging operation supplies Weyerhaeuser’s Trus Joist mill in Kenora. Weyerhaeuser is the only multi-national logging company in the region that refuses to commit to respecting Grassy Narrows’ right to say ‘no’ to logging. Grassy Narrows has called for a boycott of Weyerhaeuser products.
“When the forest is destroyed our people suffer. We are hoping the people of Ontario will hear our concern for protecting the forest,” said blockader Judy Da Silva, “because we all depend on the forest for clean air, fresh water, and a stable climate.”
Since the early 1970’s Grassy Narrows First Nation community members have been active in the protection of our rights, our people, and our way of life by protesting the destruction of the forest and the poisoning of our people and waters. In 1975, Dr Harada and his team of Japanese scientists first visited Grassy Narrows and began his 35 year research on the mercury poisoning of Wabaseemoong (White Dog) First Nation and Grassy Narrows (Asubpeeschoseewagong) First Nation community members. It was at this time that Grassy Narrows and White Dog community members went to Reed Paper Company in Dryden, Ontario and first protested the industry which poisons our river and destroys our forest along with the medicines, and hunting grounds that our community depends on.
On December 3, 2002 Asubpeeschoseewagong (Grassy Narrows) people made a stand to stop the logging in our territory that destroys our culture, and our children’s future. The community has now stopped logging trucks from passing for 10 full years and we have gained commitments from AbitibiBowater (now Resolute), Boise, Domtar, and Ainsworth to respect our right to say ‘no’ to logging. But Weyerheauser continues to seek access to log our territory, and Ontario has released a 10-year logging plan that includes dozens of clearcuts in the forests we depend on.
“The Grassy Narrows Blockaders are stronger than ever, and we have supporters around the world” said Barbara Fobister. “Any company that abuses our human rights by attempting to log on our territory will be stopped.”
Massive industrial logging operations by some of the world’s largest lumber and paper companies have degraded much of the forest that Grassy Narrows people depend on for food, culture, and livelihood. Logging practices and industrial waste have also poisoned Grassy Narrows’ river with mercury, a potent neurotoxin that has taken a devastating toll on the health and livelihood of three generations of Grassy Narrows people. The logging and associated mercury poisoning compound the trauma of hydro damming, coerced relocation, and residential schools in Grassy Narrows.
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Photos of recent logging on the Caution Lake Road:
Posted on December 4, 2012, in Defending Territory and tagged Grassy Narrows, Grassy Narrows blockade, Indigenous resistance, native blockades, native resistance. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.