Aboriginal Justice: Sacred Fire, Holy Chains

 

On 1 February 2011, Algonquin men Robert Lovelace and Daniel Bernard chained themselves to trees in the Beaver Pond Forest near Kanata, Ontario, to block a second day of clear-cut logging in a forest considered sacred by Algonquin First Nations.

A week before cutting began, Bernard lit a sacred fire at the eastern entrance to the threatened area, creating a gathering point for local community members, Algonquin people and environmental activists.  Over 150 people attended the day of Prayer for the Land at the fire site on 30 January 2011.

Despite a constitutional obligation to consult Aboriginal groups affected by development, the City of Ottawa has planned to build housing in the forest area for many years against significant community pressure.  Clear-cutting is the first step in preparing the land for a new subdivision.  

This sacred forest is home to 18 endangered species, and is important for its archaeological record as part of the earliest inhabited land in Eastern Ontario containing artifacts dating back 10,000 years.  The city granted permission to developers based on a 2004 survey deemed “clearly inadequate” and “fatally flawed” by Dr. Robert McGhee, past president of the Canadian Archaeological Association. 

The clear-cutting began on 31 January.  Early the next morning, Lovelace and Bernard entered the forest and chained themselves to threatened trees.  Authorities called the police, and eventually both men left the forest at 11:30am. 

“There really is a political solution,” said Lovelace, explaining to the assembled press that the mayor and council need to consult adequately and transparently with all interested parties – not just the developers.  “If they want a just and honourable settlement and some reconciliation, then they have to open this process up.  Include the Algonquins in the discussion.  Include the people who live here.”

TAKE ACTION
Write to Canadian officials and ask them to halt the destruction of the Beaver Pond Forest, and ensure that proper consultation takes place.  See http://tinyurl.com/47fpp88 for addresses and a sample letter.