"We Are All Here To Stay"
A Discussion Paper on Aboriginal Rights, Economic Fairness and Forest Conservation
Juli Abuchar and David Coon
Conservation Council of New Brunswick
Three years ago when Thomas Peter Paul cut three logs of birds-eye maple from Crown land, he might not have known that his chain saw would reverberate across the country in native and non-native communities alike. But it has, and although the Court of Appeal rejected Justice Turnbulls decision for want of sufficient evidence, we are beginning to glimpse the implications of, and opportunities raised by Justice Turnbulls finding that aboriginal people had never surrendered title to Crown lands.i
It may only be a matter of time until through a land claim or court case, aboriginal people make out a right to Crown land, or forestry activities in the province. Regardless, the task facing New Brunswickers is to reconcile the pre-existence of Micmac and Maliseet societies with legitimate societal objectives such as conservation of a scarce resource, and economic and regional fairness.
In this discussion paper, the Conservation Council proposes a way forward that respects aboriginal rights, economic fairness, and the imperative of forest conservation. We promote a model of forestry that replaces the Crown land tenure of a handful of timber companies with a more community-based ecological approach to forest management. Community forestry meets the objectives of conservation and regional and economic fairness by allowing more New Brunswick communities to benefit from the Crown land forests, and ensuring sustainable stewardship practices.
A co-management agreement whereby Aboriginal and Provincial government representatives establish conservation objectives, licences, land tenure arrangements, share royalties, and engage communities fully in decision-making could put forestry in New Brunswick on an ecological and fair foundation. In the words of Chief Justice Lamer of the Supreme Court in reference to aboriginal issues, "Lets face it, we are all here to stay."(footnote #1)
iAt the time of writing Thomas Peter Paul is seeking leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.