ASUBPEESCHOSEEWAGONG: Abitibi Talks

CPTnet
November 25, 2003
ASUBPEESCHOSEEWAGONG: Abitibi Talks

Date: November 11, 2003

Setting: Town of Kenora, eighty km south of Grassy Narrows. A dim, green
room in the back of the Kenricia Hotel; a long table set with cloth
napkins, silverware, water glasses and candles. A server delivers fry-bread
to eight men arranged at the table. About a dozen people stand and sit
around them in a semi-circle, listening.

 From behind the CPT video camera, the action unfolds like a movie script.
The scene: a long awaited meeting between Anishnaabe blockaders and logging
company executives. The cast: Grassy Narrows Chief and Council, assorted
community members, the General Manager of Abitibi along with the company
media spokesman and the Regional Manager, one Winnipeg environmentalist, and
two CPTers.

Steve, Deputy Chief of Grassy Narrows: You know, it is really important
you understand why you call this forest the Whiskey Jack Forest. That's
our Creator's name: Wees kay jok. So we have a right to protect it.

Dale, Abitibi Regional Woodlands Manager: Whenever we carry out logging
operations the first bird to appear is always the Whiskey Jack.

Robert, Grassy Narrows Band Councilor: But another explanation was, let
them [the Anishnaabe] drink whiskey and we'll hijack their forest!
[laughter from community members, and nervous smiles and chuckles from the
Abitibi men.]

Don Hopkins, the General Manager, brings out a one-page "Proposal for
Partnership" on Abitibi letterhead. In a ten km radius around the community
trees will not be cut; in a further ten km swath, logging will be subject to
agreement between the community, the company and the Ontario government.
The meeting opens for comments.

Roberta, a Grassy Narrows trapper and grandmother [calmly]:The problem
that's here now . . . was created by your company, Abitibi. It's up to you
guys to solve theproblem. . . . We don't have to rack our brains to find
solutions.

Judy DaSilva, blockade co-organizer [cradling her six week old son]:
There's also an invitation from the youth. About three years ago Steve and
I went to your office in Montreal to deliver a letter. We saw a part of how
you live, saw the big fancy building. The youth invited the CEO to come to
Grassy, see the forest and come see how we live. Just so you understand why
we're taking this action.

JB, a spokesman for the blockaders: If the province of Ontario told you,
"You can't cut anymore in Grassy Narrows traditional territory," what would
your reply be?

Don Hopkins: If they told us that, presumably the law would have changed,
and we wouldn't be cutting anymore.

JB: The government of Grassy Narrows is telling you "no more
clear-cutting." How do you respond to that?

Don: Well, you guys have said you're not against logging, just
clear-cutting. We just have to find a way to have our needs met for the
area mills in Kenora and your needs met . . . and it has to make sense.

JB points out that Ontario's policy requires cutting to be carried out in a
way that is acceptable to all affected parties. The government's inadequate
consultation process led Grassy Narrows community members to blockade
logging operations. So, offering a ten km zone in which cutting is mutually
agreeable is not a bargaining chip, but a right that already exists.

The men from Abitibi listen intently. They take care not to interrupt the
speakers from the community.

Don: We never intended to hurt your community. We've been logging here
for more than eighty years, almost ninety, we want a partnership with you.

JB: I have one more thing to say. It is too bad that it takes a blockade
to get a meeting with you.

On December 3 the blockaders will celebrate one year of slowing the
clear-cutting of their home. If Ontario, Abitibi, and the blockaders can
find common ground, the immediate clear cutting issue may be resolved and
the blockade dismantled (though the sacred buildings and camp at Slant Lake
would remain.)

Unfortunately, until Canada comes to the table, the nation-to-nation
relationship between Canada and the Anishnaabe Nation, the meaning of the
Treaty, and the conditions that led to clear-cutting in the first place
cannot be addressed.

Chief Simon Fobister takes the last word: I can't approve this proposal,
nor can I refuse it. I need to take it back to the community.