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The Council of Canadians supports local efforts to protect the Benny Forest

The Sudbury chapter joined Save the Benny Forest outside the Superior Court of Justice in March 2016. Photo by Sudbury Star.

The Council of Canadians supports the ongoing efforts to protect the Benny Forest in northern Ontario.

In her new book Boiling Point: Government Neglect, Corporate Abuse, and Canada’s Water Crisis, Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow writes, “British Columbia’s interior, parts of northern Ontario and Quebec and big swaths of northern prairie have been hard hit with forest loss due to logging, energy development and fire. If we continue to destroy and endanger Canada’s forests and wetlands, the burden on our already stressed waterways will grow. …Protecting forests means also protecting wetlands, and all levels of government, First Nations and communities must work together to protect, restore and rejuvenate the damage forests and wetlands of Canada.”

Sudbury chapter activist Andre Clement tells us, “The Benny Forest is located approximately sixty kilometers, north of Sudbury. Logging operations have been slated for two large tracts of land that are considered by some to be part of contested traditional lands [of the Atikameksheng Anishnawbek First Nation] that were not clearly surveyed at the time of treaty negotiations. An earlier agreement had intended to postpone logging operations until a resolution to the dispute, but operators were discovered starting preparations for winter logging. The chapter supports [efforts] to protect a significant part of the diminishing Boreal Forest that stretches across the northern hemisphere.”

On March 18, the Sudbury Star reported, “Clyde McNichol, Art Petahtegoose and Barbara Ronson McNichol will take their concerns about logging in Benny Forest to the Superior Court of Justice in Sudbury to get an injunction to stop tree-cutting and spraying of defoliants [a glyphosate of the Roundup family and a Garlon product]. The three are asking the court to stop three companies from cutting trees in the forest area north of Cartier. The demand is based on the theory that the area was promised for survey by treaty in the late 1800s and must be protected ‘to uphold the integrity of the Crown and Canada’.”

But by April 7, the Sudbury Star reported, “A Superior Court Justice has dismissed an injunction to stop logging around the Highway 144 community of Benny, northwest of Greater Sudbury. ‘The applicants have made impassioned and effective submissions’, Justice Edward Gareau wrote in his three-page decision. ‘I have reflected on the information provided by them to the court, but do not conclude that the facts of this case or the jurisprudence, including the test of interlocutory injunction, supports the granting of an interlocutory injunction. Accordingly, for written reasons to follow, the motion for an interlocutory injunction brought by the applicants is dismissed.'”

On September 14, Ronson McNichol wrote, “Machines have just come in to prepare roads for logging trucks going into Benny, Ontario in preparation for logging an estimated 800 hectares or 8 square kilometres of Forest right up to the Spanish River. …The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) is allowing cutters to go in up to 30 m. of all trails and waterways. This will dishonour Clyde’s ancestors who are buried there. It will further ruin the habitat for bears and all Indigenous species who depend on a healthy forest for their lives. It will close our business, Camp Eagle Nest, that is making an effort to pass on our culture to the younger generations.”

The following day she wrote, “We are doing everything we can to save these trees and forest and pass on the culture to future generations at Camp Eagle Nest. I even held up some trucks a few hours yesterday and got charged with mischief… not something I’m proud of really, but there is too much at stake and I feel terrible for all the bears coming into town because they have lost their habitat from logging and are so hungry.” Her court appearance will be on October 5 in Sudbury.

Ronson McNichol is now asking both Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier Kathleen Wynne to make the forest land in the Benny area in the form of a National Park Reserve pending the outcome of Aboriginal land claims by Atikameksheng Anishnawbek, Sagamok or others with an interest in the area.

Save the Benny Forest says, “We are planning some information dissemination and supporter recruitment for our petition to protect the Benny Forest in the form of a National Park Reserve – a special entity that can protect it while Native land claims are going through the courts. We plan to be at Paris and Elm St. in Sudbury at noon this coming Monday [September 19], handing out flyers September 19th with police protection. Please join us if you can. It would be great to get more helpers out. Call 705-690-3844 or write us at ronson.mcnichol@gmail.com for more information. Miigwech.”

For ongoing updates, please see the Save the Benny Forest Facebook page.