The Atikamekw Council of Manawan is approving recommendations from Quebec’s forestry ministry to stop illegal logging on private property in the community.
In February 2022, the logging company Scierie St-Michel cut a path through a maple grove which was supposed to be protected. The act provoked a blockade at the head of the route leading to the property.
The blockade and a moratorium on logging in the surrounding area of Manawan, located about four hours north of Montreal, have been in place since February.
The forestry ministry’s report concluded what the property owners already knew, that the forestry ministry and the Scierie St-Michel were at fault.
“They failed their duty to consult the family and the territory chief once again,” said Annette Dubé, the family’s spokesperson whose land was affected.
Among the seven recommendations, the forestry ministry should directly include community members in forestry activities, require approval from Manawan’s territorial resource department for future cuts, and review the consultation process.
No penalties were given to the company for the logging.
“It’s definitely been disappointing for the family. We were presented the report in May, and it was really disappointing to see there has been nothing, no penalty to the forestry company but also towards the ministry,” said Dubé.
Scierie St-Michel emailed the map of the route that cuts through the Dubé maple grove to Manawan’s territorial resource department (or, the Centre de ressources territoriales (CRT)) – which is the branch of the Atikamekw Council of Manawan that is responsible to manage resources – twice. But the province didn’t wait for a response from the CRT before approving the company’s plans.
“I think the way it was sent wasn’t the right way. They should have sent it right to the territorial resource department, but it’s as if they sent it to everyone else, the cottagers, the providers, and they only put the territorial resource department in CC. That’s unacceptable,” said Dubé.
Glenn Dubé, an elected councillor in Manawan, said it’s not the first incident.
“Companies come into our communities with logging permits already approved, so there’s a distortion between what the government hears when it’s in its office and what happens on the ground,” he said.
APTN News visited the Dubé family and their supporters at the Manawan blockade in March.
People from neighbouring communities — and from as far as Montreal — came to show support.
The blockade is still maintained by community members and some visitors. The area is also patrolled regularly to ensure the moratorium on logging is respected.
In May 2022, the president of Scierie St-Michel said he was hoping to start logging again in Manawan territory by June 6. But the Atikamekw at the blockade said that that won’t happen until their demands have been met.
“From the side of the territorial chiefs and council, we can’t be satisfied with just recommendations. We need formal agreements to follow these recommendations,” said Glenn Dubé.
Sipi Flamand, the vice-chief of Manawan, said Atikamekw consent needs to be integrated into the forestry industry.
“Improving consultation based on prior and informed consent, that’s important because this land belongs to us,” Flamand said.
“We have to take a position on everything that happens on our lands, like logging for example, and how the territories should be managed.”
Despite remaining tensions, the relationship between Manawan, the forestry ministry and Scierie St-Michel seems to be improving.
“It’s a step forward, I think, to recognize a mistake. The next step is to repair it,” said Annette Dubé.
“We’re looking forward to our file being resolved, and we hope it’s resolved soon, because there are elections coming up,” she added.
The Scierie St-Michel didn’t respond to APTN’s interview request.
Quebec’s forestry ministry declined an interview request, but sent a response via email after the deadline.
They stated the recommendations would be put into action within the next two years and that they only apply to the Manawan region.
As for the blockade, it might become a permanent fixture to make sure the maple grove is always protected.