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This article was published 8/7/2018 (814 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A deal between a group of First Nations and a paper company in The Pas will give Indigenous Peoples more say on timber harvesting on traditional First Nations land, and boost the number of Indigenous forestry contractors.
Canadian Kraft Paper and Nekoté, a corporation that represents seven area First Nations, partnered to create the Nisokapawino Forestry Management Corp. "Nisokapawino" means "two standing together" in Cree.
The partnership was finalized Friday in The Pas, where the paper mill is the largest employer. It directly employs more than 300 people, plus harvesters and service providers.
The new corporation will co-manage nearly 21.5 million acres of boreal forest where the mill sources its lumber. It includes the traditional territory of nine First Nations.
"We’re going to use science and our traditional knowledge from the community to manage the forest," Chemawin Cree Nation Chief Clarence Easter said. "Areas that shouldn’t be harvested won’t be."
"(The partnership) has the potential to create a template for how economic and environmental issues will move in the future, in a responsible and effective way, with proper participation of First Nations interests," Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Grand Chief Arlen Dumas said in a statement.
Tony Zandos, an official with Canadian Kraft Paper, described the historic relationship between First Nations and forestry companies as somewhat adversarial. The new partnership is meant to ensure that Indigenous people have a say in what’s done on their territory.
That will involve hiring Cree-speaking consultants who will be able to speak with people about communities’ concerns about timber harvesting.
The partnership will also provide more opportunities for Indigenous contractors, Zandos said.
"We’ve opened the door to understanding, whilst creating job opportunities," Zandos said. "The idea is to become more alert on the First Nations side, to get them involved in training, create more opportunities for people to create businesses. It’s a long-term view."
The deal won’t change the magnitude of forestry in the region, said Paul Chapman, a woodlands manager with Canadian Kraft Paper, so it’s tough to say how many jobs would be created or capital gained.
However, it is a long-term strategy that indicates the company’s investment in the north, he said.
The Nekoté corporation and Canadian Kraft Paper started negotiating the terms of the new corporation in November 2016.
The seven First Nations that formed the Nekoté corporation are members of the Swampy Cree Tribal Council: Chemawin Cree Nation, Mathias Colomb Cree Nation, Misipawistik Cree Nation, Mosakahiken Cree Nation, Opaskwayak Cree Nation, Sapotaweyak Cree Nation and Wuskwi Sipihk First Nation.
The area is designated as Forest Management Licence 2. Licences are provided by the province to foresters and describe the land where trees can be cut and how many trees can be harvested, among other conditions. The licences are valid for as long as 20 years.
The Pas narrowly avoided losing the mill. In 2016, Tolko sold it to Canadian Kraft Paper in a last-ditch sale.
Before the sale of the mill, Tolko held the licence exclusively.
Updated on Sunday, July 8, 2018 at 11:21 PM CDT: Edited
July 9, 2018 at 7:19 AM: Final
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