Manitoba

2nd Manitoba First Nation seeks to halt commercial logging on traditional lands

Wuskwi Sipihk First Nation has joined Minegoziibe Anishinabe in efforts to halt logging and forestry development in west-central Manitoba.

Wuskwi Sipihk First Nation joins Minegoziibe Anishinabe in effort to pause logging in west-central Manitoba

A file photo shows a logging truck in northern Manitoba. Wuskwi Sipihk First Nation in west-central Manitoba has filed a court application asking for an order quashing or setting aside a one-year extension to an agreement between the Manitoba government and Louisiana-Pacific Canada Inc. that allows commercial logging to continue in the Porcupine Provincial Forest area. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

A First Nation in west-central Manitoba has filed a lawsuit calling for logging and forestry development in the Porcupine Provincial Forest and Kettle Hills area halted until meaningful consultation takes place. 

"We're concerned about the future for the children," said Wuskwi Sipihk First Nation Chief Elwood Zastre.

In a notice of application filed in the Court of Queen's Bench on Wednesday, Wuskwi Sipihk First Nation asks for an order quashing or setting aside a one-year extension to an agreement between the Manitoba government and Louisiana-Pacific Canada Inc. that allows commercial logging to continue in the area. 

"We care about our environment, we care about our animals," said Zastre. "That's what our ancestors wanted us to do, so now we are doing it. And if nobody is going to come consult with us then we have to step up for our people."

In a Wednesday news release, Zastre said the Manitoba government has allowed Louisiana-Pacific to build roads and harvest timber in Wuskwi Sipihk territory, for more than 16 years, "without upholding its obligations to consult under the Canadian Constitution."

The release also said the Manitoba government has "failed to ensure that Louisiana-Pacific is in compliance with fundamental licensing requirements under Manitoba's timber harvesting legislation, including a long-term forest management plan for the region."

That's concerning, said Zastre.

Wuskwi Sipihk First Nation Chief Elwood Zastre says he wants to see meaningful consultation with government before any further logging licences are granted in the areas in and around Porcupine Provincial Forest and Kettle Hills in west-central Manitoba. (Submitted by Chief Elwood Zastre)

"Because it's going to hurt my people, it's going to hurt our environment, it's hurting our animals, our medicines," he said. "They're cutting in places that a lot of our traditional medicines are picked, our hunting areas, and they don't know that." 

Wednesday's news release on behalf of  Wuskwi Sipihk First Nation said the Manitoba government breached its duty to to consult.

It urged the court to "to place an immediate moratorium on logging and other forestry development by Louisiana-Pacific" in Porcupine Provincial Forest and Kettle Hills, and direct the Manitoba government "to complete a process of meaningful consultation with Wuskwi Sipihk First Nation before any further logging licences are granted in this area."

In a statement, a Louisiana-Pacific spokesperson said the company received Wuskwi Sipihk First Nation's notice of application on Wednesday.

"Although we cannot comment on pending legal matters, LP remains committed to engaging with Indigenous Nations, including Wuskwi Sipihk, regarding our sustainable forest management operations," the company's statement said.

The Manitoba government said it could not comment because the matter was currently before the courts. 

A photograph from Oct. 3, 2020, shows a clear-cut section in Duck Mountain Provincial Park. Minegoziibe Anishinabe, also known as Pine Creek First Nation, has filed a lawsuit against the provincial government, claiming the province breached its constitutional duty to consult them about commercial logging operations around Duck Mountain. (Submitted by Jeremy McKay)

In January, Minegoziibe Anishinabe, also known as Pine Creek First Nation, filed a lawsuit against the provincial government, claiming the province breached its constitutional duty to consult them about commercial logging operations in their traditional lands around Duck Mountain, just south of the Porcupine Provincial Forest area.

"The days of simply taking wealth from our mountain while our people cannot even get food for their families from our traditional lands are over," Minegoziibe Anishinabe Chief Derek Nepinak said in a news release last month.

That lawsuit also names as a respondent Montreal-based Louisiana-Pacific Canada Ltd., which holds the logging licence for the area. 

The hearing date for Wuskwi Sipihk's case is scheduled for March 15. 

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