A Superior Court Justice has dismissed an injunction to stop logging around the Highway 144 community of Benny, northwest of Greater Sudbury.
“The applicants have made impassioned and effective submissions,” Justice Edward Gareau wrote in his three-page decision. “I have reflected on the information provided by them to the court, but do not conclude that the facts of this case or the jurisprudence, including the test of interlocutory injunction, supports the granting of an interlocutory injunction.
“Accordingly, for written reasons to follow, the motion for an interlocutory injunction brought by the applicants is dismissed.”
Clyde McNichol, his wife, Barbara Ronson McNichol, and Art Petahtegoose filed the injunction. A hearing was held March 24 at the Sudbury Courthouse.
They want to stop tree-cutting and defoliant spraying by Eacom Timber Corporation, Northshore Forest Inc. and Vermilion Forest Management Company Limited in the forest area north of Cartier.
The McNichols operate a not-for profit business called Camp Eagle Nest, which they say offers traditional teachings to youngsters. Cutting trees in the area, they argue, will detract from the camp and disturb ancient burial grounds.
“On behalf of Art and Clyde, obviously we are disappointed, but we still truly believe we have a very strong case,” Ronson McNichol told reporters Wednesday. “We may have lost, but we are not giving up.”
Ronson McNicholl said the three will wait to read Justice Gareau’s written decision before deciding their next step. She said the group won’t engage in civil disobedience to halt the logging.
“We want to keep it peaceful and protect the environment as best we can because the lives of trees are worthy of protection, like the animals themselves,” she said.
Ronson McNichol added they want to meet with Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry officials to talk about the Benny Forest.
Christine Leduc, director of public affairs at Eacom, said the company is happy with the judge’s ruling.
“We’re pleased with the decision because it allows us to put attention to our operations,” she said. “An injunction would have had a significant impact on us and the local community.”
On March 25, the McNichols and Petahtegoose made emotional pleas to the court to stop the logging.
“When we see the clear cut, we see that school being erased,” said Petahtegoose, in his 30-minute presentation. “When we see the clear cut, we see that church being erased, that health food store being erased. And, I am saddened … We are not against (logging), but we want to see honest practices of land management.”
McNichol said improper surveying done long ago of the Benny area is leading to the clear cutting issue he is facing today.
“If the surveys were done with what they were supposed to do, we wouldn’t be here today talking about what we are fighting for – the land that should have been given to our people,” he said.
McNichol said he wanted a 20-mile radius around Benny to preserve the forest for everyone, not just First Nation people.
“I want all to come and learn, see the beauty, the knowledge the trees have,” he said. “They are like us. They breathe. They give us oxygen …You kill the tree, everything else is gone.”
McNichol said he is not against forest companies and their employees, but he wanted to protect the forest and its old-growth trees.
Ronson McNichol said the destruction of the Benny forest is devastating to First Nation people. She said forestry companies are not interested in hearing about the impact of what they are doing.
McNichol and Petahtegoose are members of Atikameksheng Anishnawbek First Nation, which claims as its territorial hunting grounds lands up to the watershed, including the Benny forest.
Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry lawyer Christine Perruzza argued the ministry had met its obligation to consult with aboriginal groups about the Spanish Forest Management Plan.
As well, the plan outlines which areas of forest are to be cut, said Perruzza. She said the Crown Forest Sustainability Act plays a big role in producing a management plant that protects biodiversity, species at risk and areas of historical importance.
Perruzza said the Atikameksheng First Nation was consulted. She said the first nation did not support the McNichol injunction application, nor the requested 20-mile radius around Benny.
David McCutcheon, Eacom’s lawyer, said the company respects the forest it is cutting in.
“This is not a licence to do what you want,” he said. “It’s a licence to go in and maintain the sustainability of the forest in the area … That’s why the forest is regenerating.”
McCutcheon said Eacom relies on the Benny forest area for about one-quarter of the needs of its Nairn Centre sawmill, which employs about 160.
In late spring, however, due to road restrictions in other cutting areas, the forest provides all the mill’s needs.
“If an injunction is granted, the mill would not be able to resume operations until July,” he said. “In some respects, this is a life and death issue for my client …
“Any decision has to take into account the public interest, the interest of my client in the forest, the interests of the employees, the interests of the employees of other companies that rely on my client for wood fibre and sawdust.”
A 10-year Forest Management Plan for the area is in place, covering 2010 to 2020. That plan, the court heard, went into effect April 1, 2010.