The chiefs from 10 Mi’kmaq and Maliseet First Nations in New Brunswick, along with the Assembly of First Nations Chiefs in New Brunswick Inc. are seeking a temporary injunction against outgoing Premier David Alward’s new Crown forestry plan. This appeal is a part of a larger and consistent narrative of environmental degradation, disregard of First Nations culture, corporate favouritism and of profit-focused politics in New Brunswick.
This injunction is sought on the grounds that the forestry plan was created without adequate consultation with the First Nations, and poses an immediate threat to their aboriginal and treaty rights.
It is disappointing – although hardly surprising – that First Nations groups seem to be the only ones fighting this short-sighted plan. If allowed to continue, the plan will give the Crown licence holders the opportunity to increase the amount of wood they cut on Crown land to 20 percent and reduces the amount of public forest that is off-limits to industry to 23 percent, down from the previous standards of 28 percent. Some argue that this new plan will create the much-needed jobs for the province that hasn’t seen much in the way of employment opportunities in recent years. Realistically, however, the increase in land accessible to Crown leaseholders will most likely result in profits only for shareholders of companies such as J.D. Irving, one of the primary parties of interest in this case. If the plan passes, Irving will simply expand their operations as they are currently being run, primarily offering short-term or seasonal employment to youth and very few long-term or contracted positions for those skilled in the area. This type of employment is not a sustainable solution for New Brunswick, from an economic or an environmental perspective.
It should also be noted that the Alward government has been using provincial tax dollars to pay for the advertising supporting the forestry plan. This decision was especially questionable on the eve on the New Brunswick election. Essentially, the government is selling campaign propaganda using tax dollars. If the policy is as positive as the Alward government is claiming, then it should be the corporations benefiting from the plan footing the bill for its campaigning, rather than New Brunswick taxpayers. We must question why the campaign is necessary in the first place. The plan was initially decided upon with little to no public consultation, and it seems as if the government is not trying to give the impression of transparency and accountability after the fact.
As New Brunswick residents, we should be demanding more from our local government and offering support to our minority populations. The impacts of the Alward forestry plan will be felt first and foremost by the First Nations of New Brunswick, but will also extend to all of us within the province, benefiting a very select few with political and corporate interests.