Posted on January 13, 2010 (updated: January 13, 2010)

Grassy Narrows’ Legal Challenge to Clearcut Logging Begins

Toronto, ON –The Ontario Superior Court begins hearing evidence today in Grassy Narrows’ case against logging on its traditional lands.  Grassy Narrows is challenging Ontario’s right to approve industrial logging that interferes with its constitutionally guaranteed treaty rights.  The Grassy Narrows trappers have been in the courts for close to a decade fighting to protect Treaty 3, which was signed by the Government of Canada in 1873.  The trial is expected to last approximately 75 days.

A brief press conference will be held at 1:15 p.m. outside the courthouse at 330 University Ave.

“We have never given our consent to clearcut logging, and we have never given up our right to live off this land, but the government and the corporations choose to ignore this,” said Grassy Narrows representative Joseph Fobister.  “The logging is destroying a way of life for our people, and we cannot allow that.”

In her decision to award costs in advance of trial, Madam Justice Spies wrote “I have no difficulty in concluding that the treaty interpretation issue is an issue of great public importance.” [1]  She further stated that ”in my view this is a serious issue that had not yet been squarely decided or even considered in any case before.” [2]  She explained that “Ontario would be paying a relatively small portion of the revenues it derives from forestry in the Whiskey Jack Forest to have tested, once and for all, the constitutionality of those activities, which are being carried out at the expense of Grassy Narrows.” [3]

“This historic test case will set a precedent for First Nations communities across the province whose lands are being clear-cut, strip-mined, and polluted for the benefit of multinational resource extraction companies.” said Anastasia Lintner, staff lawyer for Ecojustice.

On September 1, Amnesty International and 20 other organizations renewed their call on the Province to halt all logging in Grassy Narrows territory unless the free, prior and informed consent of the community is given. [4]

“Decades of failure to uphold the human rights of the people of Grassy Narrows have led to tragic levels of poverty, and ill health,” said Craig Benjamin, Campaigner for the Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples at Amnesty International. “The Province could have avoided being taken to court if it respected the right of Indigenous communities to say ‘no’ to unwanted development on their lands.”


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