From the Inside Out: Forestry bill is a many splintered thing

Dear Uma: I was sorry to hear about Jason losing his job; he’d be feeling quite crushed, this young man who has known nothing but success in…

Dear Uma:

I was sorry to hear about Jason losing his job; he’d be feeling quite crushed, this young man who has known nothing but success in his every endeavour. He is, as you said, a resilient sort of kid; he’ll be bouncing back into another job when he is ready.

The vacation in Hawaii will undoubtedly assist in his healing. Remedies for wounds suffered by the privileged class are so elegant; somebody losing their job on the line of an automobile manufacturer, for instance, might have to settle for a drunken night in a neighbourhood pub rather than mai tais on a tropical beach.

It was an unanticipated turn of events. I understand, the company he worked for going out of business, in keeping with the changes sweeping the USA these troubled days.

The election of Obama was a grand thing, I thought, a strong indication of a shift in thinking for Americans that can only bode well for the future. The feeling of hope engendered by the election was felt all over the world.

I wish the election we suffered through could have been even half so interesting, or held any promise of change, hope or drama.

It is going to be interesting to see how and where Obama will lead the USA; what happens there will affect everyone, everywhere.

Meanwhile, according to the CBC National News, Canada is in a recession. How are we to recognize that, I wonder; everything seems to be going on much as before. The cost of everything creeps up almost daily, but that’s been going on long enough to have become normal.

What is the clear indication of a recession? Is the normalization of things like the price increase of every single thing we purchase the unmistakable sign?

The looming threat of economic collapse has not yet led to my feeling frightened, not in any concrete way. There do occur those sudden middle-of-the-night realizations of the fragility of life and all the things that can end it, but doesn’t everyone have those regardless of the state of the country?

Since moving here, I have found those moments of realization of the fragility of life and all the things that can end it are instantly soothed simply by going outdoors. The wilderness is all around, as it has been for millennia, the rhythms of life primeval, unadorned and untrammeled, found in my own heartbeat. Accessing that connection has been one of the more significant things to have happened to me, and the Yukon bush has been the scene of this discovery.

That is why, when I read the article in the Yukon News about the Liard First Nation’s challenge of the forestry bill, I found myself applauding.

Hands sore from clapping, I thought it might be time to see what I could find out about said forestry bill. My reaction to most newspaper headlines tends to be instinctive and though I have learned to trust that reaction, a sip from the fount of knowledge, while a dangerous thing according to Pope, will make this letter more understandable for you and others with whom I share the ceaseless commenting of my restless mind.

My understanding of the forestry bill, from reading and from talking with various people who have been involved with it from the beginning, is that it is a deeply flawed piece of work. It has been described as a licence to cut trees and not much else.

It is an act that will allow the resources minister to overrule forest management plans which do not yet exist.

The very idea of a “kick start” for a forestry industry in the territory without first having a comprehensive management plan for all land use is too ludicrous to be countenanced; this is what YTG hopes to accomplish with this bill.

It is a comfort to think the Liard First Nation will not allow this careless attitude towards the land to become law. Or, should it become law, they are not prepared to abide by such a decree.

The Liard First Nation have already illustrated their belief in their rights to a land they have occupied for thousands of years when they built the Two Mile Lake Gathering Place without going through the Yukon Environmental and Socio-Economic Assessment Board.

I have mentioned the assessment board to you before; its mandate is to assess each land-use application and make recommendations regarding these applications. I have heard it described as a toothless, expensive sop to the public to make them believe their individual applications for land use will be a streamlined process and the corporation applications for land use will be thoroughly assessed, thus allowing us all to rest easy in the certain knowledge the wilderness and all its inhabitants are being cherished and protected for future generations.

Well, this thing just ain’t on all fours, it seems. While many an individual application has been denied, that has not been the fate of any corporate applications.

There have been strong recommendations against some of the corporate plans that have been ignored.

Corporations, those ingenious devices for obtaining profit without individual responsibility, would seem to share some qualities with government, which would explain why they appear to work so well together.

If there has been any action, any response at all, to the un-permitted construction of the Two Mile Lake facility, I have not heard of it.

I myself have no problem with the Kaska use of their land to create a gathering place, but I am curious as to why the Yukon government has not reacted to what would seem to be a flagrant disregard of their land-use laws.

Back to the forestry bill and Liard First Nation: Chief Liard McMillan has indicated the Kaska are prepared to go to court if they must in order to protect the forest from the potential devastation the forestry bill would allow.

The issue, once again, is lack of consultation. The Yukon government seems to not recognize the implications of the Kaska status as a people who have never settled land claims. They have never signed treaties, nor have they been put on reserves. They did not ratify the Umbrella Final Agreement. They claim unsurrendered rights to their traditional land.

The Yukon government’s dealings with First Nations appears too often to have a patronizing flavour, while the premier is quick to demonstrate his favourite stance of “better to fight than win.”

It all holds the promise of much to interest us during the winter, and I shall be resting easy in my bed knowing the Liard First Nation has drawn the line in the lichen to protect the boreal forest and all its creatures, including our own troublesome species.



Heather Bennett is a writer

who lives in Watson Lake.