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Strategy: Model Forest Program

Workshop Report On Aboriginal Participation In Canada's Model Forest Program

Submitted by the National Aboriginal Forestry Association
January, 1996


Canada's Model Forest Program was implemented in 1992 with the June announcement of sites chosen in accordance with national criteria reflecting a variety of cultural and ecological values such as wildlife, biodiversity, watersheds, recreation, and fisheries as well as the economic value of wood supply. The ten model forest sites, as a network, form an essential element of the Partners in the Sustainable Development of Forests Program, a component of Canada's Green Plan.

On the international front, the Model Forest Program was developed to coincide with known outcomes flowing from the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development. In a nation where ten per cent of the world's forests are located, it was considered imperative that Canada take a lead role in efforts to define and implement standards of sustainable forest management. As models, the ten successful sites are to serve as test tubes bringing into practise the latest concepts and techniques in the management of forests. As well, at the heart of the Model Forest Program is the need to demonstrate how partnerships can be formed to reflect a diversity of interests and to reach consensus in vision and goals for the future of their forest. At the outset the Model Forest Program recognized that Aboriginal people have much at stake in how forests are managed in their traditional territories now forming part of the chosen model forest sites.

Background On Aboriginal Involvement

Aboriginal groups or communities are involved in seven of the ten model forests. The three sites that do not have Aboriginal participants include An Inhabited Forest, Fundy and Western Newfoundland Model Forests.

The Long Beach Model Forest Society was incorporated on September 12, 1994, some two years after other model forests become operational., The delay was attributable to the public controversy surrounding forest practices in Clayoquot Sound and to the process of involving First Nation participation. As currently described, Long Beach is a community-based, two culture (First Nations and Non-Aboriginal) model forest. Within the society, eleven Aboriginal communities comprise the First Nations sector, and they have representation on the Board of Directors through the Nuu-Chah-Nulth Tribal Council.

The Lheit-Lit'en First Nation become a partner to the McGregor Model Forest on June 15, 1995.

The Foothills Forest includes the participation of the Metis Nation of Alberta and Fox Creek Development Association Ltd. (an Aboriginal self help group).

The Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations, the Prince Albert Tribal Council and the Montreal Lake Indian Band participate in the Prince Albert Model Forest. The Montreal Lake Indian Band represents the greatest degree of participation among the three Aboriginal groups. Three of the seven seats on the board are held by Aboriginal representatives.

At the present time, Aboriginal participation in the Manitou-Abi Model Forest does not officially include First Nations. Metis participation is ongoing.

The Lake Abitibi Model Forest incorporates the involvement of the Wahgoshig First Nation. The main Aboriginal activity will be the inventory of the archeological and cultural heritage sites within the model forest area.

The Mohawk Council of Akwesasne are participants in the Eastern Ontario Model Forest. Specific Aboriginal initiatives include gathering resource inventory information, creating and managing black ash plantations and energy forests and creating a heritage food forest. The Mohawk Council has one of three seats on the board.

Purpose Of The Workshop

Since the Model Forest Program was established to advance the concept of integrated resource management in Canada and to demonstrate how varied interests and values could be balanced and managed for the benefit of future generations. From the perspective of First Nations, the development of successful and workable approaches must give due consideration to their unique rights and position within Canadian society. Apprehension, on the part of Aboriginal groups, was evident early in the process, as some thought participation would result in a compromise of their rights.

Since the Model Forest Program was launched in 1992, participating and some non-participating Aboriginal groups have been seeking an opportunity to meet amongst themselves to discuss their involvement in the program and in forest management partnerships generally. Requests were made to NAFA to convene a meeting or workshop.

Workshop Proceedings

To reduce costs of such a workshop and to ensure a good turn out, NAFA scheduled the workshop on model forests in conjunction with the NAFA Aboriginal Forestry Conference "Lessons in the Making". As planned the workshop was held in Ottawa beginning at 2:00 p.m. on October 23, 1995.

The workshop was attended by approximately 25 representatives of Aboriginal groups and 10 government officials, primarily from the Canadian Forest Service. Aboriginal groups with interests in six of the model forests were in attendance. No Aboriginal people participating in the Foothills Model Forest were at the workshop.

The workshop was co-chaired by Henry Lickers of the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne (Eastern Ontario Model Forest) and Gene Kimbley, Manager of Forest Operations, Montreal Lake First Nation (Prince Albert Model Forest). Both Mr. Lickers and Mr. Kimbley made presentations on their involvement in their respective model forests. At the workshop, presentations were also made by Mr. John Hall, National Coordinator, Model Forest Program, CFS; Mr. Wally Samuel, General Manager, Long Beach Model Forest; Gerry Fontaine, Chief, Saugeen First Nation (non-participating with interests in Manitou-Abi Model Forest) and Willie Wilson, Tribal Chief, Treaty #3, who is a member of the Model Forests Evaluation Committee.

(See Appendix 1 for a listing of presentations and facilitators at the Model Forests Workshop, and Appendix II for a summary of the proceedings).

Comments About The Model Forest Program

Comments by Presenters

Chief Gerry Fontaine:

We have serious disagreements with the Model Forest program.

The Model Forest program doesn't adequately address the question of "What is sustainable development from a First Nation's viewpoint?"

We think the Model Forest program has been commandeered by special interest groups.

Having two First Nations representatives on an 11-member Model Forest Council is only tokenism. Our interests are different from others. We are not a minority shareholder!

We're disappointed that the Model Forest in Manitoba has taken an adversarial approach to First Nations.

If the current model Forest doesn't work, we'd like to see an Anishnawbe Model Forest in it's place.

We support the concept of a Model Forest very strongly. It's the marginal role we've been assigned that we can't accept.

The First Nations affected are very much against the working process of the current (Manitoba) Model Forest.

By Willie Wilson:

You don't have to be a member of a Model Forest to practice new and innovative approaches to forestry management.

Where do we go after the 5-year Model Forest program is over. Forests can't be measured in 5 years!

By Wally Samuel:

First Nations didn't get involved until certain conditions were agreed to, i.e. that no meeting of the Model Forest Council could take place without the First Nation present.

We sponsored Rediscovery Camps' for youth to help them learn about the forest.

Our Model Forest society is accountable to the First Nations communities. We don't go and tell them what to do: we go to them to tell us what we should do.

We hope to collect the traditional knowledge of the forest that some of our people still have.

We're here to help the communities get information they want so they can plan how they want the forest managed.

Comments from the floor:

Only 5 of 10 Model Forests have First Nations involvement (only Metis involvement in two model forests - Manitou-Abi and Foothills.)

There have been benefits from our involvement in the (Prince Albert) Model Forest but it wasn't without knocking on a lot of other doors.

The Model Forest has given us access to other stakeholders. It has led to changes in the cutting practices of the major companies in our area.

Little Red River Cree and Tallcree First Nations are undertaking their own Model Forest initiative to encompass their traditional territories

We wanted to make sure the First Nations' interest weren't compromised.

The Long Beach Model Forest program can only do research it doesn't have any authority.

We see the companies' involvement as a ploy to get access to new cutting areas.

The going on at the Model Forest program are transparent and open to anyone who wants to find out.

We were looking for 50%+1 First Nation participation on the Model Forest Board. We didn't get that so we have refused to join in.

There's a great level of trust among the members of the Eastern Ontario Model Forest. We try to anticipate each other's response to any proposal.

We think the Model Forest has a lot to learn from us, from how we do things in our communities.

There's a lot of mis conceptions about the Model Forest program. People think it can make decisions and even take things over. But it's not what it does. It brings information to the people in the communities and helps them to give their advice and direction.

People were frustrated about the Model Forest program because of misconceptions about what it could do for them.

We asked communities what role they'd like to play. We find the communities to be really receptive to the role they can play in the Model Forest Program.

When people got together to form partnerships, they first had to take time to learn to work together. There are many groups still struggling with that.

I think the Model Forest program is more about the process of forming partnerships than it is about changing things on the ground.

NAFA Observations

On the workshop:

To a very large degree the workshop was attended by Aboriginal people that are involved in the Model Forest Program and see the benefits of participating. Though NAFA attempted to identify and invite other Aboriginal groups that would seem to have an interest, no non-participating groups attended the workshop with the exception of First Nations from Manitoba.

It was necessary at the workshop to involve CFS officials to give background and context to the Model Forest Program. However, the large number of CFS officials in attendance may have compromised the openness of Aboriginal participants.

Overall, the presentations from the panel were lengthy and rather dry (feedback to NAFA) leaving insufficient time for open discussion and exchange of information amongst the attendees.

On Aboriginal involvement in the Model Forest Program:

With two, possibly three exceptions, First Nations have approached the Model Forest Program with apprehension. The unwillingness to accept the approach offered through model forests is a refection of the historical relationships with both levels of government and the past exclusion of a meaningful role in natural resource decision-making.

Model forests espouse a mutli-stakeholder approach which levels the playing field and gives equal voice to the participants. In multi-stakeholder processes, Aboriginal people are seen as one interest group, and consequently, are accorded one vote or voice in the process. On the other hand, non-Aboriginal people are seen to have almost limitless interests including wildlife, recreation, labour, fish and game, business, to name a few. As a result, Aboriginal people are inevitably the minority.

In terms of interrelationships and authority, the Model Forest Program perpetuates the status quo. While First Nations, at the political level, seek access to resources, self-government and greater recognition of Aboriginal and Treaty rights, the Model Forest Program explicitly states that nothing is changed with respect to jurisdiction over land use decisions.

In model forest structures where First Nations are not an insignificant minority, or where First Nations interests are elevated to the philosophical level and embodied in the objectives of the organization, there has been a greater willingness to participate. As well, in these cases, an understanding that the issues to be dealt with are relevant solely from a forest management point of view has contributed to a mutually beneficial working relationship. To gain this assurance, some of the mission statements have stated that First Nations' participation shall be without prejudice to First Nations' Aboriginal and Treaty rights.

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