AbitibiBowater forced to quit
Firm prepared to give up its licence
A five-year-old blockade in northwestern Ontario has forced AbitibiBowater to stop using wood from a one-millionhectare forest near the Manitoba border.
The Montreal-based forest products company told the Ontario government yesterday that it was prepared to give up its licence to operate in the Whiskey Jack forest in order to avoid having to wait several years for the outcome of a consultative process with the Grassy Narrows First Nation.
“The flexibility of a newly merged company, paired with the current context of an industry that gives access to unused fibre, allow us to temporarily find alternative wood supply for our operations,” wrote AbitibiBowater CEO David J. Paterson in a letter to Ontario’s Natural Resources Minister Donna Cansfield that was obtained by Canwest News Service.
“Furthermore, we wish to engage in discussions with the Ministry of Natural Resources and other key stakeholders to begin moving the Whiskey Jack Forest to a more appropriate management structure, and are prepared to work on an orderly transition of the licence. Our decision comes with a clear commitment on our current management responsibilities, including those related to reforestation.”
Greenpeace Canada’s forest campaign co-ordinator Richard Brooks said the decision was significant, noting that the existing conflict was considered to be the longeststanding blockade in Canadian history.
“You don’t often having a company saying: ‘We want to get out of this forest because it’s too controversial,’” said Brooks.
“This follows on a number of customers who have said to AbitibiBowater: ‘Stop logging in intact forest areas, and stop logging in the Grassy Narrows community.’”
Brooks added that Boise, the owner of the OfficeMax and Grand & Toy office supply stores, was one of the customers that had recently announced it would no longer purchase paper products that came from the Whiskey Jack forest.
AbitibiBowater is expected to announce details of its plan to shareholders of its newly merged company tomorrow.