Ontario Votes 2014

Grassy Narrows students hope election stops clearcutting

Some students from Grassy Narrows hope a provincial election brings an end to the logging dispute in their community.

Liberal forest management plan allows new logging permits in disputed forest

Early Childhood Education students Roxanne Loon and Hans Fobister of Grassy Narrows say clearcutting must be prevented so the children can learn their traditional ways in the forest. (Jody Porter/CBC)

Some students from Grassy Narrows hope a provincial election brings an end to the logging dispute in their community.

The Northwestern Ontario First Nation argues Ontario does not have the right to issue forest licenses on its traditional territory. The case is currently before the Supreme Court of Canada.

Meanwhile, the Liberal's new forest management plan includes logging permits in the area.

More clearcut logging of the one-million hectare Whiskey Jack Forest is planned, starting Apr. 1. The Whiskey Jack Forest is part of Grassy Narrows First Nation's traditional territory. (Freegrassy.net)

"If they cut down our trees, if they allow these forest companies to cut down our trees, what am I going to use?" Hans Fobister asked. "What is my future generation going to use."

'It upsets me'

Fobister, a 23-year-old who is studying to be an early childhood educator, said the land, trees and water are important to teaching Anishinaabe culture and traditions.

"It upsets me what they're doing," Fobister said of the logging.

"Our people take a lot of pride in our land and we use it. We practise our old ways and, when we do, it brings back our past times. I usually go hunting with my grandpa."

Fobister said he'd like politicians to pay more attention to Grassy Narrows' desire to stop the industrial logging.

Liberals, NDP disagree on new permits

Randy Nickle, the Conservative candidate for Kenora-Rainy River told CBC News  "it would be inappropriate for a candidate seeking elected office to comment" on an issue that is before the Supreme Court.

"Ontario Liberals are committed to moving forward with Grassy Narrows ... to realize positive economic development and resource-benefit opportunities, including greater participation, as we modernize forest tenure in Ontario," Liberal candidate Anthony Leek said.

But incumbent NDP candidate Sarah Campbell challenged the Liberal's commitment to partnerships with First Nations recently at Queen's Park.

"Grassy Narrows First Nation was not consulted in good faith when the long-term management direction of the Whiskey Jack Forest on their traditional land was developed," Campbell said.

"MNR [Ministry of Natural Resources] plans show that clear cutting on traditional Grassy Narrows territory will start as early as 2014, despite the community's strong objections."

Green Party candidate Tim McKillop said resource management is a critical issue in the Kenora Rainy River riding.

"People seem to be generally afraid of a pillaging effort by non-First Nations companies coming in, taking these resources but not leaving a benefit for these First Nations communities," McKillop said.

"They want to take our forest, our trees."

Student Roxanne Loon said it's time for politicians to listen to the people at Grassy Narrows.

"If we could all come together there could be ways to help each other. It doesn't have to be specifically clearcutting. Like, the way I see it, they're greedy. They want to take our forest, our trees."

Loon, who is also studying early childhood education, said three generations of her family use the forest as a teaching tool for her eight-year-old son.

"If they do allow clearcutting he's not going to learn that," she said. And that's what I want my kids to learn, the traditional ways."


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?