TORONTO – A group of municipal and Indigenous leaders, unions representatives and forest professionals visited the Ontario Legislature 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 group representing the Ontario Forestry Coalition visited with political leaders and streamed a press conference to air its concerns. Wendy Landry, president of the Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association, was one of the speakers: “We depend on the long-term health and sustainability of our Crown forests. We are fed-up with being portrayed as a region that has no regard for the sustainability of the area that we live in.”

“We are the subject matter experts,” Landry continued. “This is our back yard, and we deserve a say in the policy that governs our back yard.”

The coalition is concerned with how activist rhetoric may influence the provincial government’s policy decisions regarding species at risk. The group is also concerned that species at risk prescriptions will have a negative affect on fibre availability and lead to job losses and closures in the forest sector.

“At the end of the day, the rule sets we work with need to be based on sound science, not fear,” said Ron Holman, chair of the Rural Ontario Municipal Association. “The reality is that this is a complex issue with multiple factors. It isn’t just about one species, but about how we can supply a continuous supply of habitat to all species, including species at risk, over space and time.”

Chief Ed Wawia, from Red Rock Indian Band, stated, “The socio-economic impacts of the proposed rules we’ve been discussing today have the potential to be catastrophic for First Nations communities.”

The full press conference can be viewed on the Ontario Forest Industries Association Facebook page.