[Northern Ontario] English River logging suspended during court battle – by Tanya Talaga (Toronto Star – March 23, 2012)

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The Ontario government has agreed to suspend logging north of the English River in a territory five times the size of Toronto as an 11-year legal fight winds its way through the courts.

Last August, the Ontario Superior Court ruled the province does not have the power to take away treaty rights negotiated over 150 years ago by allowing industrial activity without the consent of Grassy Narrows First Nation. The decision is being appealed and is expected to be heard this fall.

But while all commercial logging cannot occur in the Grassy Narrows traditional area north of the river without the community’s consent, it can south of the river, said David Sone, a spokesperson for the environmental organization Earthroots.

“The people of Grassy Narrows and First Nations across the province have suffered for decades for decisions imposed on them and their land without their agreement,” Sone said.Grassy Narrows just discovered the court decision, even though it was made at the end of December 2011.

About 800 people live in Grassy Narrows, an Ojibwa band north of Kenora near the Manitoba border. Some have suffered serious health problems for years after a paper mill dumped 20,000 pounds of mercury in the Wabigoon-English river system between 1962 and 1970, aboriginal leaders say. Grassy Narrows’ main food source was fish from the river system.

This decision shows partial recognition by the government that it is wrong to impose activities like clear-cut logging, said Sone. But even as the government begins to recognize the principle they are planning for logging anyway against the objection of Grassy Narrows, he said.

Ontario is trying to negotiate respectfully with Grassy Narrows, said Minister of Natural Resources Michael Gravelle.

“I actually had an opportunity to meet with Chief Simon Fobister and the community late last year related to our hopes to be able to continue to harvest part of the Whiskey Jack Forest,” Gravelle said.

“They are as keen as we are to see a solution in terms of that portion of the Whiskey Jack that may be available for harvesting.”

For the rest of this artilce, please to the Toronto Star website: http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/politics/article/1150693–english-river-logging-suspended-during-court-battle