IMMEDIATE RELEASE Tuesday May 31, 2011
Grassy Narrows women block MNR enforcement team
MNR seeking to stop repairs to only alternate emergency route out of the community
Asubpeeschoseewagong - Grassy Narrows' high profile logging blockade saw action again today as grassroots women blocked passage for Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR ) enforcement officers interfering with back-road repair work by the northwestern Ontario First Nation community. The community is repairing a bridge over the Segeisse Road to facilitate their ongoing use of their traditional territory, a right recognized under Treaty 3. The road also provides the only alternate route out of the community during forest fires, flooding, and other emergencies. The MNR has threatened $10,000 fines if the work is not halted, but today work continues behind the blockade line as grassroots women taken action to block access to MNR officials.
"We the Anishinabek will never stop exercising our inherent right to use and protect the land, water and the forests," said Judy Da Silva, a Grassy Narrows mother, blockader, and traditional healer. “The same province that permitted paper mills to dump 20,000 pounds of mercury into our river, and permits industrial clearcutting against our will claims to be protecting our environment by stopping road repairs.”
The roads have become impassible since the MNR halted maintenance on the back road network in 2002 when grassroots women and youth put their bodies on the line to block logging machinery from further destroying the forest their community depends on. Previously the back roads had been maintained by local contractors through provincial subsidies provided to the logging industry. Grassy Narrows is repairing the roads at their own expense, but the government is trying to stop them citing a lack of provincial permits.
The back roads are used by Grassy Narrows members to access hunting, trapping, wild rice, medicine and berry picking areas. Community members continue to depend on the land for their physical and cultural sustenance, and their livelihood, a right recognized under Treaty 3.
"The MNR attempt to stop maintenance of the roads is an attack on our community's self sufficiency," said Roberta Keesick, a Grassy Narrows grandmother, trapper, and blockader. “It is another attempt by the Province to assert unilateral control over the Territory in violation of our inherent and treaty rights."
The blockade, now in its nineth year, is the longest running blockade in Canadian history. Logging trucks feeding Weyerhaeuser's Trust Joist mill, and Abitibi pulp and paper mills shifted their clearcut logging operations to more inaccessible parts of the territory until June 2008 when AbitibiBowater bowed to pressure and surrendered their license to log on the Whiskey Jack Forest. However, Weyerhaeuser continues to seek access to wood clearcut on Grassy Narrows Territory and the MNR has unilaterally created a contingency logging plan for clearcutting on Grassy Narrows Territory.
For more information, and for interviews contact:
Judy Da Silva: 807-407-0794, Chrissy Swain: 807-407-0724, RiverRun2010@gmail.com