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AFNQL takes Quebec to task over forestry-consultation promises

February 27, 2024  By Marc Lalonde, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Photo: Annex Business Media.

Indigenous leaders in Quebec are warning the province not to just pay lip service to a new provincial law requiring forestry officials to consult with First Nations when it comes to awarding new logging rights and contracts.

Earlier this month marked the first-ever Round Table on the Future of the Forest, which brought First Nations together with provincial forestry officials from the Ministère des Ressources naturelles et des Forêts (MRNF).

In a statement, the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador (AFNQL) warned that negotiations must get off the ground on the right foot – and in good faith.

“This new initiative by the Quebec government must translate into concrete actions and measures that respect the rights and interests of First Nations. They are inseparable from the future of our forests and the forestry activities that derive from it,” the AFNQL said.


Despite the new law, First Nations leaders say decisions are still made unilaterally at the government level, with consultation ultimately leading to no changes.

“It’s clear that the Quebec government is not doing enough to respect the rights of First Nations on the territory, especially when it comes to logging,” said Kebaowek First Nation Chief Lance Haymond. “The consultations carried out by the MRNF are superficial. Decisions are made unilaterally. Things have to change.”

AFNQL Chief Ghislain Picard said more efforts must be made by the ministry to promote conservation and co-management of the territory, to allow for equal sharing of royalties as set as set out in the Lands and Resources Declaration. The declaration was adopted in November 2021.

“All development within First Nations territories must respect the principles set out in the Declaration, and the government cannot disregard them,” he said.

The AFNQL believes, and is supported by, First Nations in the province on the notion that First Nations hold ancestral rights over their territories and resources. These rights include the right to use and occupy land, to own land, to enjoy economic benefits, and to use and manage their land proactively.

An Innu chief warned that the government needs to stop seeing the massive forest in the province’s north as a cash register.

“It’s time the government stopped seeing the forest only as an economic engine for the forest industry,” said Essipit Innu First Nation chief Martin Dufour. “This extremely rich environment and the wildlife that inhabits it are affected by this development, as demonstrated by the situation of the caribou. We need to implement structuring projects to ensure its future, in particular by establishing more protected areas on the territory

Marc Lalonde is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter for Iori:wase.

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