Wemotaci council calls for removal of highway blockade in wake of forestry deal
December 19, 2023 By Marc Lalonde, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
The Atikamekw Council of Wemotaci and the community’s Guardians of the Territory are calling for the removal of a blockade on a logging road in northern Quebec in a wake of a deal between the council and the provincial government over logging rights.
The blockade on Highway 451 was first erected in early 2022 by members of the Atikamekw community of Manawan after logging companies starting cutting down trees out of bounds on traditional Atikamekw land.
The Wemotaci council – along with the community’s ‘Ka nikaniwitcik,’ (Guardians of the Territory) – called for the removal of the blockade after they came to an agreement over forestry activities on traditional unceded Atikamekw land.
“As far as council is concerned, those dissidents that are upholding the blockade do not represent anyone but themselves and don’t have the support of council, or the support of Wemotaci,” the Council said. “Upon consultation with the community, council and the Guardians of the Territory have come to the conclusion that it is of primordial importance that we give the ongoing negotiations the best chance to succeed and give us the best opportunity to have our ancestral rights respected and that’s in the best interests of all the members of the Wemotaci community.”
The blockade sits about 200 kilometres east of Wemotaci and is being upheld by members of the Manawan Atikamekw community.
The problem, a community official explained, is the lack of respect given to the forest by logging companies, said Therese Niquay, director of community services and projects for the Atikamekw council of Manwan
“The companies that come here to clear-cut, it doesn’t bother them at all, because it’s not their living space. But it affects us, and it affects our children too, and it will affect generations,” she said.
The developments are rooted in a logging moratorium on traditional Atikamekw communities that was passed in November 2021. The moratorium was supported by the majority of territorial chiefs, the Manawan community council and other Atikamekw communities – including Wemotaci – but the provincial government continued to hand out logging permits.
That forced the community’s hand.
Now, the Wemotaci council thinks it’s high time the blockade was removed in order to let all the members of Atikamekw communities to profit.
“Considering the advancement of work that has been accomplished through the negotiation process by and with the Atikamekw community of Wemotaci, it is in the best interests of the community to pursue this avenue,” Council said. “It would be a shame to deprive future generations and the present one, of what can be gained through the peaceful negotiation process.”
Marc Lalonde is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter for Iori:wase.
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