Clyde McNichol, Art Petahtegoose and Barbara Ronson McNichol will take their concerns about logging in Benny Forest to the Superior Court of Justice in Sudbury on Friday at 10 a.m., to get an injunction to stop tree-cutting and spraying of defoliants.
The three are asking the court to stop three companies from cutting trees in the forest area north of Cartier. The demand is based on the theory that the area was promised for survey by treaty in the late 1800s and must be protected “to uphold the integrity of the Crown and Canada,” they said in a release.
Clyde McNichol wants to restore the area after than a century of “disturbance by logging and other assaults by peoples foreign to the native way of life,” said the three in the release.
That way of life provided for better balance and harmony with animal and plant families in the area.
“(Clyde) believes this will be possible with guidance from the Creator and ancestors as well as through experts from universities and business and volunteers,” they said in the statement.
The trio is taking on Eacom Timber Corp., Northshore Forest Inc. and Vermilion Forest Management Company Ltd. in the request for an injunction. Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry are also named in the application. A ministry spokesperson said last week she couldn’t comment on the application because it is before the courts, but said the ministry will have legal representation at the hearing.
The ministry will argue it has followed “all the rules” and that an injunction will result in job losses, say the applicants. “But Clyde and his team will question whether anyone’s job or livelihood is worth disrespecting international treaty promises negotiated in sacred ceremony.”
Clyde McNichol is a member of Atikameksheng Anishnawbek First Nation near Naughton. The first nation claims as its territorial hunting grounds lands up to the watershed, including Benny Forest.
The McNichols operate a not-for-profit enterprise called Camp Eagle Nest near they, which they say offers traditional teachings to youngsters. Cutting trees in the area will detract from the camp. They also argue that logging on the land to which the companies have sustainable forest licences will disturb ancient burial grounds.
But not everyone in the Benny area agrees with the trio. Nancy Martel, who lives in Levack, but is a former resident of the tiny town of Benny, takes issue with the position being advanced by the McNichols and Petahtegoose.
Martel says Benny residents do not oppose logging in the area, nor do they support the trio of applicants seeking the injunction.
“We support the forest industry,” said Martel in a four-page letter she is distributing about the injunction application and the people behind it.
She takes issue with Clyde McNichol pitching a protest test and posting a sign that says “Support Camp Eagle Nest.”
“Support who? Well, what about the support for those contractors? They have families, they need support,” she said.
She also questions complaints that logging is disrupting ancient burial grounds. Martel said residents and former residents of the area pitched in with labour and money to fix up the Benny graveyard as far back as 2005.
Forestry has advanced over the generations, argues Martel, and protecting forests means managing them sustainably.
She is also circulating a petition supporting forestry in the area signed by about 10 residents of Benny.