A coalition of municipal and Indigenous leaders, chambers of commerce, unions, and forest professionals are going to Queen’s Park on November 22 to dispel misinformation about Ontario’s forest sector and to urge the government to avoid unintended consequences from rushed species at risk (SAR) policy.

The event will be streamed live on the Facebook page of Ontario Forest Industries Association (OFIA): https://www.facebook.com/OntarioForestIndustriesAssociation/

The coalition feels there has been a coordinated effort by groups opposed to forestry trying to label Ontario’s forest sector as unsustainable.

“Each day, we grow more concerned with how activist rhetoric may threaten forest sustainability. New policy based on misinformation will have unintended consequences for communities in every region of this province,” said Ron Holman, chair of the Rural Ontario Municipal Association and Mayor of the Township of Rideau Lakes.

One example is an opinion piece which appeared in the Toronto Star on Oct. 25, authored by the David Suzuki Foundation and Environmental Defense. It asked, “Will anyone act to save the caribou? Ontario is not.” Similar comments were made by CPAWS, Wildlands League and the American activist group Natural Resources Defence Council (NRDC).

In response, the president of the Federation of Northern Ontario Municipalities (FONOM), Al Spacek, said, “To claim Ontario has not acted to save caribou is conveniently ignoring over 20 years of work, 600 tracked animals and $11 million dollars of government research.”

On October 18, ice cream maker Ben and Jerry’s wrote a letter to provincial ministers and premiers to say the company is concerned about “unsustainable logging practices” in Canada’s boreal forest.

Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association president Wendy Landry stated, “These attacks on forestry are extremely concerning. Decisions on policy need to be made on the best available science and informed by the people who are most impacted.” She went on to say, “Arguments presented by those with special interests and no skin in the game cannot be viewed as credible. We are forestry. This is our backyard and we deserve to have a say in the policy that governs it.”

Chief Ed Wawia, from Red Rock Indian Band, in concerned about the effect of proposed legislation. “The socio-economic impacts of the proposed species at risk rules have the potential to negatively impact Indigenous communities. If these proposed new regulations are implemented, the sustainable forestry businesses we have built and the jobs dependent on them will be lost.”

Jamie Lim, president and CEO of OFIA, said the concerns about the Endangered Species Act are longstanding. “Since 2013, we have been asking the Ministry of Natural Resources to act on their commitment to establish a panel that would review the linkages between the Crown Forest Sustainability Act (CFSA) and the Endangered Species Act (ESA). A change in timelines and an extension to the current Section 55 Rules in Regulation is required to take the appropriate amount of time to get things right.”

She continued, “These are the affected stakeholders that need to form the panel. 57,000 direct jobs in this province are at stake and we can’t let misinformation get in the way of evidence-based policy decisions.”

The Ontario Forestry Coalition is a grassroots organization focused on ensuring government policy that supports the continued resurgence of Ontario’s renewable forest sector, the maintenance of full-time forestry jobs, the transition to a low-carbon economy, and the three pillars of sustainability.