New Brunswick Premier David Alward said Tuesday a controversial forestry agreement with J.D. Irving should be finalized before the provincial election campaign begins next week, according to CBC. The government signed an initial deal with the company earlier in the year and a final agreement was expected to be in place by July 1.
The deal, which gives J.D. Irving and other Crown licence holders access to more softwood trees on public land, will be legally binding on future governments. It increases the amount of softwood available to industry by 20 per cent.
However, a group of First Nations chiefs in New Brunswick is asking the Court of Queen’s Bench to block the provincial government’s new forestry plan, which will give industry access to more Crown wood, said CBC Friday.
The chiefs have filed a motion asking for an injunction to prevent the government from signing logging agreements with several private companies, arguing the province has not met its legal and constitutional obligations to aboriginal people.
NB Forestry Deal Disputed
The new forest policy, announced in March, also reduces the amount of forest that is off limits to industry to 23 per cent of the public forest from the previous standard of 28 per cent. The new deal is ex- pected to result in the harvesting of an additional 660,000 cubic metres.
In March a group of 184 professors and other academics signed a letter calling for NB Natural Resources Minister to stop the process and revisit the strategy.
The First Nations chiefs launching the legal dispute said to CBC they decided to take action because the agreements, once signed, would be legally binding on future governments and irreversible. In the notice of motion, filed in Fredericton, the chiefs argue the government shouldn’t be allowed to sign any such deals.
The applications are the chiefs of the 15 Mi’kmaq and Maliseet First Nations of New Brunswick and the Assembly of First Nations Chiefs in New Brunswick.
In addition to the provincial government, the other respondents are the five companies that hold Crown timber licences: AV Cell, Fornebu Lumber Company, J.D. Irving, AV Nackawic , and Twin Rivers Paper Company.
On Thursday, Alward announced he had invited First Nations chiefs to meet with him next week.