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Resolute faces certificate issues in Quebec

Dec. 22, 2014, Montréal - The Government of Quebec stated in the Le Quotidien newspaper last week that it will be unable to quickly resolve its dispute with the Cree First Nation or the issue with caribou habitat conservation planning that are the main reasons for the suspension of two of Resolute Forest Products' Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certificates in the Lac-Saint-Jean region of Quebec.

In the October 3rd edition of the newspaper, the Quebec Minister of Forests, Wildlife and Parks, Laurent Lessard, said that the suspension of the two certificates for two of Resolute's logging territories revolved around issues that are the government's concern. On December 12, Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard reaffirmed that the Quebec government is responsible for both the Joint Approach and caribou habitat files.

Resolute confirms that, following the statements by the Government of Quebec, it will be impossible for the Company to obtain reinstatement of the two Lac-Saint-Jean certificates within the allowed time and without significant socio-economic impact. One of the certificates expired on December 3rd and the second, which is currently suspended, will be revoked on January 1st, 2015.

In these circumstances, the interpretation of the requirements of the FSC's Boreal Standard, which sealed the fate of the two certificates, led to non-conformities associated principally with the following two issues:

1. A complex territorial dispute between the Cree First Nation and the Government of Quebec contributed to the FSC auditors' decision to suspend one of the two FSC certificates, even though Resolute has no power to settle this dispute, which is the responsibility of the Quebec government.

2. The existing caribou habitat conservation plan for the Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean region, prepared and implemented by the Government of Quebec, was found to be unacceptable by the FSC's auditors. However, other holders of FSC certificates for neighboring territories in the Lac-Saint-Jean region have had their certificates renewed, despite having basically submitted the same caribou habitat conservation plan that was considered unacceptable when Resolute's FSC certificates were audited.

Notwithstanding these interpretations, a major comparative study by Yale University of forest regulations, sustainability practices and enforcement structures around the world found that Canada is top-ranked in terms of government policies, industry activities and the speed of certification adoption. It is crucial that all stakeholders promote the leadership shown by Canada and Quebec in terms of sustainable forest management.

Resolute continues to be one of the largest holders of FSC sustainable forest management certificates in Canada and recently successfully renewed its FSC certificates in the Mauricie and North Shore regions. The North Shore certificate was renewed based on the caribou habitat conservation plan prepared and implemented by the Government of Quebec.

"The certificate suspensions in Lac-Saint-Jean have nothing to do with Resolute's adoption of leading forest management practices or its compliance with laws and regulations. These are in fact the same sustainable forest management principles and practices that are applied by other current holders of FSC certificates in Eastern Canada," said Richard Garneau, President and Chief Executive Officer. "Furthermore, the renewal of our North Shore FSC certificate was granted based on a caribou habitat conservation plan prepared and implemented by the Government of Quebec."

"Our customers expect the products we supply to be in compliance with internationally recognized sustainable forest management standards and to be harvested using environmentally-friendly methods. That is why we have committed to voluntarily maintain the certification of 100% of the forests we manage to one or more of three internationally recognized sustainable forest management standards, namely, Sustainable Forest Initiative® (SFI®), FSC and the Canadian Standards Association (CSA)," added Garneau.

December 22, 2014  By  Andrew Macklin

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