Indigenous leaders point to issues with Timiskaming forest management plan

Indigenous leaders in the Temagami area are hopeful of a new relationship with the Crown when it comes to some forests, but say they're being ignored when it comes to other trees in their territory.

First Nations say they are being ignored as the province plans the next 10 years for the Timiskaming forest

Timiskaming First Nation is hopeful that it will see some of the economic benefits of logging the Temagami forest which currently "generate a lot of profit for a few companies." (Erik White/CBC )

Indigenous leaders in the Temagami area say the state of their relationship with the provincial government depends on which forest you're talking about.

First Nations, towns and logging companies recently formed a forest management corporation to look after the Temagami forest, but some of those same First Nations are saying their concerns about aerial spraying and clear cuts were not considered in a new plan for the Timiskaming forest, located to the north of Temagami.

"You can see in the Timiskaming forest our voices are not being heard," said Teme-Augama Anishnabai Chief Leanna Farr.

"This is a common issue with regards to bureaucratic and government processes with regards to forest management planning. This new corporation gives us an opportunity to change that."

In a statement, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry says it has addressed some of the First Nations concerns about the Timiskaming forest, and that other issues are outside of the scope of a forest management plan. 

While the province is hailing the Temagami Forest Management Corporation as a solution to the conflicts over logging that gripped the area in the 1970s and 80s, Temagami First Nation Chief Shelly Moore-Frappier says she isn't so sure.

"It was a time of great emotion, where we were taking a huge stand and the country was watching and they were involved. So, it's kind of hard to comment on those relationships and that time and comparing it to now."

Moore-Frappier says area First Nations were not properly consulted for a new forest management plan, and they will try to get a court injunction. 

Matachewan First Nation is also among those speaking out against the recently approved plan.

Land and resources co-ordinator Cathy Yandeau says the herbicide use is of most concern to them. She says elders have witnessed a disappearance of flora and fauna, including birch trees.

"The birch trees are very sacred and give a lot of medicine and we see out there a depletion of birch, and we see a lot of birch left on the ground ... especially with their way of cutting with the clear-cuts."

Yandeau says even the public in general who use the land have concerns — and says the First Nation wants meaningful consultation in the forest management plan.

With files from Erik White