Greenpeace is fighting back after members of North Eastern Ontario Municipal Association (NEOMA) likened the environmentalist group to “eco-terrorism.”
During a press conference this week, the mayors of NEOMA member communities, including Timmins’ Steve Black, announced that they were banding together to fight environmental groups such as Greenpeace, which they believe are making it impossible to start new forestry products in the region.
Greenpeace has responded by denying any claims they are calling for a boycott of companies harvesting in the Boreal Forest.
According to Greenpeace spokesman, Richard Brooks, the group has a problem with just one major forestry company harvesting in the Boreal Forest, Resolute Forest Products, and they don’t even operate anywhere near Timmins.
Resolute closed its Iroquois Falls paper mill late last year.
“I think it’s important to clarify that we are not against forestry, we’re not against logging, and we’re certainly not against jobs in the North,” said Brooks. “What we are trying to do is raise awareness of responsible forestry, which is being practised by companies in the Timmins area such as Tembec. And to also highlight the operations of one particular company, Resolute Forest Products, who we believe are not practising sustainable forestry.”
The difference between businesses like Tembec and Resolute, said Brooks, is that Tembec has been able to maintain all their Forest Stewardship Council certifications, have good relationships with all of their First Nations partners, and have been willing to adjust their plans to protect caribou habitat, none of which can be said about Resolute.
“Resolute is an outlier when you compare them to Tembec or any other company operating in the Boreal Forest. Virtually no provincial or national environmental organization will work with them because of the approach they’ve taken to these issues,” said Brooks.
Resolute Forest Products is currently suing Greenpeace for defamation.
When asked how local municipal leaders could have come to the impression that Greenpeace was actively trying to block new forestry initiatives in the Boreal Forest, Brooks laid the blame at the feet of Resolute and the Ontario Forestry Industries Association (OFIA).
“That perception is coming from a few parties working at the behest of Resolute Forest Products; the OFIA is a good example of one of those parties that is a trouble maker,” said Brooks. “They’re really stirring up the North and mischaracterizing my organization and other environmental groups.”
While neither the municipal association or any of its member communities are officially affiliated with the OFIA, there has been a close relationship between the industry group and local municipalities.
Its executive director is former Timmins Mayor Jamie Lim.
The OFIA has been critical of Greenpeace and the tactics it uses to try and pressure companies like Resolute into changing their ways. Late last year, the association sent an open letter to Premier Kathleen Wynne accusing Greenpeace of slandering resource companies and bullying their customers.
As evidence, they pointed to a newsletter sent by Greenpeace last December asking recipients to “write a false review on Best Buy’s website,” to pressure the electronics retailer to stop buying the paper for its fliers from Resolute.
While the newsletter does, in fact, say write a “false” review, Richards said they only wanted people to use the customer reviews section to let Best Buy customers know who the company does business with before deciding to give them money.
“We are encouraging people to use comment areas on products to draw attention to Best Buy’s paper policy or lack thereof. We weren’t suggesting to our supporters that they should say particular products are bad or defective,” said Brooks.
Putting bad reviews online as a way to pressure companies to change their policies is not a new tactic, in fact, it is relatively common. In the past, it been used by everyone from gay marriage proponents to social conservatives to let others with the same views know not to support a business that is doing something objectionable.
The tactic is controversial because it misuses services meant to review the quality of a product or service for political purposes, and enough bad scores can prevent products from being featured on some online storefronts and thus lose sales.
Regardless of their feuds with the OFIA and Resolute, Greenpeace will get a chance to make their case here in Timmins.
Mayor Black has agreed to meet with Brooks sometime soon to hear the environmentalist group’s side of things.
“I think anytime you have the opportunity to talk to someone who supports or is on the other side of an issue you are discussing, you should take that opportunity to sit down and have a face-to-face meeting so you know where they’re coming from,” the mayor told The Daily Press.