An alliance of First Nation and non-First Nation leaders representing rights holders, stakeholders, municipal leaders, unions, and Ontario’s forest sector has been formed to defend their way of life, with a mandate to grow the responsible use of natural resources in northern and rural Ontario.

Chief Thomas Johnson Jr., Seine River First Nation, said, “In light of reconciliation and economic sustainability, we as First Nations and non-First Nations must rally in support of one another to defend our shared forestry interests and lands unique to northern and rural Ontario through a working alliance, forged on the principles of unity, strength and prosperity. Our collective action reaches beyond today by working to secure a sustainable future for the generations to come. As the Chief of Seine River, I stand in solidarity with The Alliance. I am calling all treaty partners to join and support us in moving the reconciliation agenda forward.”

The Alliance was recently formed in response to the potential negative impacts on communities and the forest sector of proposed species at risk (SAR) and Endangered Species Act (ESA) policy in Ontario.

“We’ve looked after the land for hundreds of years,” said Chief Joe Ladouceur, from Bingwi Neyaashi Anishinaabek First Nation. “We know how to manage our own forests. The government is taking food off the tables of First Nations.”

Jamie Lim, president and CEO of the Ontario Forest Industries Association (OFIA), stated, “Workable provincial and federal policy developed with input from stakeholders, rights holders, practitioners and professional foresters will maintain and grow good paying jobs in northern and rural Ontario. Members of The Alliance are committed to increasing sustainable harvesting, growing their local economies while continuing to respect science-based environmental values.”

In a media statement, The Alliance says members were hopeful following the announcement in August 2017 by Kathryn McGarry, then Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry, to delay the posting of species at risk forestry prescriptions under the ESA. This was to provide time for government to achieve a better understanding of the impacts of climate change, the cumulative impacts of all activity on a broad, dynamic land base, and a better appreciation of the socio-economic implications of provincial species at risk policy.

“However, The Alliance has been left wondering what decisions have been made in the meantime. Premier Kathleen Wynne’s cabinet shuffle on January 17th has added further uncertainty with what will happen in the future,” the statement reads.

“We welcome Minister Nathalie Des Rosiers to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry and sincerely thank Minister Kathryn McGarry for her efforts at the MNRF,” said Wendy Landry, president of the Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association (NOMA) and Mayor of Shuniah, Ont. “We made a lot of progress under the leadership of Minister McGarry and it is critical that the government deliver on their commitments made in August in order to ensure we create opportunities for investments that will drive the economy not only for the north, but Ontario as a whole.”