To Defend Rights and Set Precedent, First Nation Targets Logging Plan

Hoping to set a precedent on Indigenous peoples and environmental rights, the Grassy Narrows First Nation is heading to court on Monday in a legal bid to stop Ontario’s plan to allow clear-cutting near the community’s traditional territory.

The Canadian tribe says a proposed forest management plan, which would see clear-cutting of about 50,000 hectares of the Whiskey Jack Forest, would “prolong and deepen the ongoing tragedy of mercury poisoning” in local waterways, thereby violating their “rights to security and freedom from discrimination,” according to a press statement.

The case could become the first to successfully use the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to protect people against harm and discrimination arising from environmental degradation.

“We’re trying to protect our people’s health here, our fundamental human rights,” Chief Roger Fobister told CBC News.

“It saddens me that we are forced to fight in court to protect our children from the dangerous mercury impacts of clear-cut logging,” Fobister added in a statement. “I hope that the court will finally end Ontario’s long legacy of forcing harmful decisions on our families and our homeland.”

Research shows (pdf) that clear-cutting can release methylmercury—a neurotoxin—into the environment.

What’s more, many of the lakes and rivers in areas where logging will take place already face fish consumption restrictions due to the past industrial dumping of mercury.