BATTLE FOR THE BOREAL – by Peter Kuitenbrouwer (National Post – December 4, 2015)

The workday is over at the Hotel Matagami. Guests in steel-toe boots eat club sandwiches with poutine, drink five-dollar bottles of Labatt 50 and cheer the TV as the Montreal Canadiens thrash the New York Rangers.

At one table, Nicolas Mainville, 37, a biologist with Greenpeace, opens a ThinkPad with a sticker on its lid. It reads: “May the forest be with you.”

The screen glows with 33,000 kilometres of red tentacles: these are the logging roads on Crown land in the boreal forest, the same forest that doubles as hunting grounds for the Cree Nation of Waswanipi.

Those two activities are clashing, with the Cree and the loggers both blaming the other for unfairly damaging their way of life.

Greenpeace and Resolute are at war

“I better not open this up too big,” says Mainville. He fears the Greenpeace logo could enrage locals, who live from forestry. He’s only half joking: a lot of people around here don’t like his organization.

That’s because his group has taken up the Cree’s complaints to wage a fierce campaign against the biggest employer anywhere near this town — Resolute Forest Products Inc., the largest newsprint producer on earth and the dominant logger in Ontario and Quebec in the boreal forest. As Richard Savard, Quebec’s deputy minister of forestry, puts it: “Greenpeace and Resolute are at war.”

At the heart of the issue is not the health of the forest — even many eco-activists admit that it’s doing fine – but a battle over land rights between First Nations and industry that’s being packaged up by groups like Greenpeace and sold to the world as an environmentalist cause célèbre, like saving the whales or blocking the oilsands.

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