The Grassy Narrows First Nation (Asubpeeschoseewagong Netum Anishinabek) of northwestern Ontario, Canada, has won a legal victory that could turn the tide in its 11-year battle against clear-cut logging on its traditional lands. In a lengthy decision, Ontario Superior Court Justice Mary-Anne Sanderson ruled that the province of Ontario, which had authorized logging on the lands, had overstepped its bounds. Logging and mining rights, she explained, are established by treaty and therefore a federal and not provincial issue.
In a triumphant press release, Chief Simon Fobister said that the decision ultimately “will require protecting the way of life of the Anishinaabe who were here before the logging industry came to these lands and will be here after the logging companies have moved on to other forests.”
An article in the Globe and Mail paraphrased the insights of Robert Janes, the lawyer for the Grassy Narrows First Nation, who said Justice Sanderson conceded that “the federal government promised to defend their rights, but hasn’t done so for many years.” Janes also said the ruling would have repercussions for numerous other cases in Canada.
Grassy Narrows activists have been actively and successfully blockading Slant Lake against logging trucks since December 2, 2002; an article from March of this year at Missisauga.com said the blockade is one of the longest-running in Canadian history, and that Amenesty International has taken up the Grassy Narrows cause with the provincial government.