(Editor’s note: The following is an open letter to Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne regarding Resolute Forest Products and its role in Canada’s boreal forest.)
UNIFOR is Canada’s largest private-sector union, with more than 305,000 members across the country, working in every major sector of the Canadian economy.
The United Steelworkers is the largest private-sector union in North America with more than 225,000 members in Canada and more than 800,000 members continent-wide. The USW Wood Council represents 20,000 women and men employed in the forest industry in Canada, of which approximately 4,000 work in and around Northern Ontario and Quebec.
We are writing today to express our concern regarding the escalating campaign directed at Resolute Forest Products and its role in Canada’s boreal forest, as well as to convey our strong belief that any future discussions regarding protected area planning and other impacts to the working forest must include broad participation from the different stakeholders affected by that very serious issue.
We are concerned that the “war in the woods” is once again heating up between certain activists environmental non-governmental organizations and members of the forest products industry.
Resolute Forest Products, in particular, has been the target of attacks from certain environmental non-governmental organizations, which is impacting the company in the fiercely competitive global marketplace and posing a real threat to our member’s jobs!
As you well know, all forestry companies in Ontario must operate in accordance with the Crown Forest Sustainability Act, and the rules are tough to comply with.
These require complete regeneration after harvest and the required practices to maintain the long-term health of the forest.
This is the law in Ontario and we take pride in the fact that our union members work in an industry, which is widely recognized as the global leader in sustainable forestry.
The fiber from boreal forest harvested annually, which represents 0.5% of the surface, supports over 55,000 good paying direct jobs and another 170,000 indirect jobs, in total contributing about $11 billion to Ontario’s economy.
The forest industry represents an economic engine that sustains the socio-economic health and prosperity of northern communities across the province.
In Ontario, building on programs like Lands for Life and Room to grow over the previous two decades, Resolute and other companies from the industry have contributed significant areas for the expansion of parks and preservation areas in the province. Today, in northwestern Ontario, protected areas for Resolute represent almost 19% of the Crown land area.
This is in addition to the 16%-18% of area that is withdrawn under regulation.
This 19% in northwestern Ontario is nearly double the provincial average.
It is our understanding that certain members of the environmental non-governmental organization community are demanding the protection of additional large areas of the working forest.
We are obviously concerned with this.
We believe in the importance of direct, face-to-face discussions, and we respectfully request that the Ontario government take a leadership role in convening a meeting including broad participation from stakeholders like unions, local communities and First Nations, in addition to the environmental non-governmental organizations and the industry.
USW Wood Council