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Sudbury chapter supports land and water protectors defending the Benny Forest

Photo by Glenn Murray

The Council of Canadians Sudbury chapter supports ongoing efforts to protect the Benny Forest, which is situated on the territorial lands of the Atikameksheng Anishnawbek First Nation in northern Ontario.

Earlier this week, Sudbury chapter activist Glenn Murray was at a ‘Solidarity Round Dance in Support of Land and Water Protectors in Benny Forest’. The gathering took place at the beginning of a new logging road off Highway 144.

The outreach for the Round Dance noted, “This event is a call out for those wanting to come together in peace and friendship to show support and solidarity for the land defenders and water protectors at Benny who are facing increasing destruction from logging operations. We need to stand up for these and all land defenders and water protectors being persecuted because they are at the service of Mother Earth and ultimately, all of us. This is our opportunity in this territory to make a statement and send a message to the powers that be; we are paying attention to what is happening to our forests and waters and we won’t be silent. The world is watching.”

Earlier this year, chapter activist Andre Clement explained to us, “The 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 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.”

In August 2015, the Sudbury Star reported, “The spraying of herbicides on replanted forests is raising alarm among First Nations people from west of Blind River to north of Cartier. …The Vermilion Forest Management Company maintains the two types of herbicide it applies — a glyphosate of the Roundup family and a Garlon product — only target vegetation that competes with the planted pines and won’t poison water or enter the food chain. …Opponents point out glyphosate has been classified as ‘probably carcinogenic to humans’ by the World Health Organization, and cite research indicating both it, and the triclopyr-based Garlon product, can have dire consequences for fish and frogs.”

This past March, The Council of Canadians provided support in an attempt to secure an injunction to stop the clearcutting and the spraying of defoliants in the forest area north of Cartier. But by early April, 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.” At that time, land and water protector Barbara Ronson McNichol said, “We may have lost, but we are not giving up.”

By mid-September, Ronson McNichol noted, “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 is allowing cutters to go in up to 30 metres of all trails and waterways. This will dishonour [my husband] 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 Ronson McNichol attempted to stop a logging truck on the road and was charged with mischief.

In her 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.”

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