Final decision for Broadback nears

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Waswanipi residents are anxiously awaiting an overdue report that could decide the fate of the Broadback forest, the last pristine area in the southern Cree community’s territory. The provincial Comité d’examen (COMEX) was expected to release its recommendations on logging applications for the area by March 3.

“The report has been delayed until the end of March,” according to Waswanipi Chief Marcel Happyjack. “Then not too long after we’ll get a final decision for the Broadback.”

COMEX, Quebec’s environmental and social impact review committee, is an independent agency composed of members appointed by both the Quebec government and the Cree Nation. The agency is supposed to work as a mediator in assessing project impact of projects in the area governed by the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement (JBNQA), and to protect Aboriginal hunting, fighting and trapping rights, social and natural environments and Aboriginal communities.

“We’ve met with companies to discuss what can be done,” said Chief Happyjack. “We’ve met with different groups and shared our story. COMEX has listened to a lot of our issues and is passing that knowledge along to the government soon.”

Broadback Final Decision Delayed-2016-Greenpeace (2) copy

More than 120 Crees attended a recent COMEX hearing in January, and Greenpeace and the Waswanipi Eenou have agreed that preserving the Broadback is key in the fight against climate change.

“We’ve had over 9,000 supporters in the fight to save the Broadback,” said Nicolas Mainville, forest campaigner at Greenpeace. “We got 6,000 signatures in just two days. It’s clear that the other communities and the people in them support our cause to save the forest.”

About 90% of Waswanipi territory has already been negatively affected by the creation of access roads and forestry activities, which makes the Broadback such a vital region for the community.

“It has been a controversial topic in Quebec, mostly because the logging companies involved didn’t want to listen to what the First Nations had to say,” said Mainville. “Now that they have a voice and supporters, logging companies simply can’t walk in and go to the Broadback without conflict. Opening the door for these companies would cause quite a scandal, on the international level.”

He added that the longer the government waits to make a final decision, the more allies Crees and environmentalists will make in the battle to preserve an intact eco-system. “We can make a larger impact if people get involved, and people are clearly interested,” Mainville emphasized, directing those interested in the issue to visit

“Hopefully the decision will be based on what the people of Waswanipi want,” concluded Chief Happyjack.

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