Protesters camp out near Benny, Ont. in opposition to logging on aboriginal lands
Clyde McNichol says the forest in Benny belongs to his ancestors
A First Nations man and a small group of supporters have camped out near Benny, Ont. to protest against logging in the area.
Clyde McNichol and his wife Barbara have set up camp by the small town just an hour north of Sudbury. They've been there since Saturday. They intend to stay until the end of the week.
For the past year, the couple has been spearheading a campaign to stop companies like Eacom Timber from taking away trees from the forest. Last April, they saw loggers come into Benny where they had set up a camp for First Nations youth.
Clyde, who is from the Atikameksheng Anishnawbek, says the land belongs to his ancestors and government should be consulting with the First Nations community before any work is done in the area.
"This is still native land. We never gave up this land," he said.
"That was all written in those treaties [that said] 'Yes you can, but you have to come and talk to us to agree that you can abstract that part.'"
Working on a compromise
The issue has led the McNichols to reach out to their MPP, France Gélinas.
The Nickel Belt MPP says she has been working with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry on getting the situation sorted.
She added that the ministry — and even those from Atikameksheng — weren't aware that some of their members were in Benny.
"It's really difficult and not working out as well as we would like to," she said.
"[We] tried to talk to the logging companies themselves. They tried to be as reasonable as they can. At the same time, they had a valid license to go log there."
In an email statement to CBC News, Bill Mauro, the minister of Natural Resources and Forestry, said, "My ministry will continue to work with the Atikameksheng Anishnawbeck Chief and council and Eacom to ensure identified values are protected during forestry operations, while still allowing for sustainable forest harvesting to proceed as planned."
Christine Leduc, the director of public affairs from Eacom, also said the company will continue to work co-operatively with the Ministry of Natural Resources and the leadership of Atikameksheng Anishnawbek "to maintain harmonious relations."
Preserving the land means 'everything'
For Barbara McNichol, preserving the land means everything to her and her husband.
"Too much has threatened our way of living in balance with other species in the land," she said.
"For me right now, I don't see myself going anywhere else. This is where I want to be. This is what I want to leave for my children, for Clyde's family, for anybody who really wants to recapture the way of living on the land."
And while few have come to visit their camp site, Clyde says he'll continue his fight for as long as it takes.
"I'm not going away," he said. "As native people, we still have our rights and our culture."