by: Chris Kornacki – Wawatay News
After almost a decade of blockades and protests from Grassy Narrows First Nation, the Ontario Superior Court has begun hearing evidence in the First Nation’s case against logging on its traditional lands.
Grassy Narrows is challenging Ontario’s right to approve industrial logging that comes in conflict with its constitutionally guaranteed Treaty Rights. Grassy Narrows has also been in the courts for almost a decade fighting to protect Treaty 3, which was signed by the Government of Canada in 1873.
The trial began Oct. 5, 2009 in Toronto at the Ontario Superior Court and is expected to last for 75 days, so is still underway.
“We have never given our consent to clear-cut 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 March 2009 the province of Ontario unilaterally approved a plan that identifies 27 areas to be clear-cut on Grassy Narrows territory, 17 of which will be more than 260 hectares in size.
For nearly seven years, a peaceful grassroots protest on Highway 671 has prevented logging trucks from access to portions of the Whiskey Jack Forest. This is the longest sustained protest in Canada’s history.
Justice Nancy Spies is hearing the Grassy Narrows case.
“I have no difficulty in concluding the treaty interpretation issue is an issue of great public importance,” she wrote, prior to the onset of the court battle.
“In my view this is a serious issue that had not yet been squarely decided or even considered in any case before.”
Anastasia Lintner, staff lawyer for Ecojustice, explained, “This historic test case will set a precedent for First Nation communities across the province whose lands are being clear-cut, strip-mined and polluted for the benefit of multinational resource extraction companies.”
Gary Penner is the counsel for the federal government and is arguing that the First Nation’s interpretation of the Treaty is “too strong.”