Québec Premier Philippe Couillard welcomed Grand Chief of the Grand Council of the Crees (Eeyou Istchee) Matthew Coon Come at a ceremony on July 13 at which a new partnership and collaboration agreement was signed. The Grand Council of the Crees calls it “the Agreement to Resolve the Baril-Moses Forestry Dispute.”
This agreement resolves a dispute and legal proceedings between the Cree Nation and the Government of Québec regarding the application of the “Baril-Moses” forestry standards. It provides for the implementation of these standards in the affected territory until June 30, 2020. For the period after July 1, 2020, Québec and the Cree will work together on possible improvements of these standards.
The agreement establishes the Broadback River Protected Area as a biodiversity reserve with an area of 9,134 square kilometers. This measure will help to protect environmentally sensitive areas, including woodland caribou habitats. A joint Cree-Québec task force will work to identify possible additional protected areas. The agreement also commits Québec to work with stakeholders, including the Cree, for the recovery of woodland caribou.
The long-standing dispute between the Cree nation and the provincial government spilled over to Resolute Forest Products last year, as it factored into the suspension of Resolute’s FSC certification for some areas.
“The signing of the agreement confirms the common values shared by the Cree Nation and Québec, including sound forest management. This collaborative regime marks a further step forward and confirms the importance of the forest industry in the economic life of our communities. Furthermore, the agreement paves the way to the impending implementation of the government strategy concerning the restoration of the woodland caribou habitat,” Minister Laurent Lessard noted.
Grand Chief Matthew Coon Come stated, “This agreement secures the harmonization of forestry operations with Cree hunting, fishing and trapping activities in the Baril-Moses area. It provides a process for the Cree and Québec to work together on forestry measures to ensure this harmonization over the long term. It also provides for the participation of the Innu of Mashteuiatsh in this process if they wish to do so.”
One group remains dissatisfied with the new agreement. The Cree Nation of Waswanipi opposed the July 13 announcement related to protection in the Broadback area “since it ignores the vast majority of Waswanipi’s proposed protected area and opens the door to new logging and road building, thus threatening unique ecological and cultural heritage on Waswanipi land.”