Resolute Forest Products is urging people to speak out against what they claim is misinformation from environmental activist groups.
The company launched a major campaign on Friday stating that non-government organizations like Greenpeace and Forest Ethics do not speak for Northern communities and First Nations.
“This is not a game,” said Seth Kursman, vice-president of corporate communications, sustainability and government affairs.
“Real people’s lives are at stake,” he added.
“There is too much at stake here to do anything else. Our way of life — our livelihoods are under attack. The future of communities are held in the balance.”
Through the campaign, Resolute will be running full-page advertisements in national and regional newspapers as well as direct mail and digital campaigns, including using social media.
“We are making a serious commitment and you can only imagine the resources that go behind such a move,” said Kursman.
Greenpeace has argued that Resolute is responsible for the destruction of a vast portion of the boreal forest in Canada, damaging the woodland caribou habitat.
They also claim the company is logging without the consent of First Nations.
Kursman said 500 communities passed municipal resolutions or signed onto municipal association resolutions condemning the misinformed attacks and that what is being said is blatantly untrue, but it’s still having an effect on business.
“It’s led to the loss of orders,” said Kursman. “It’s led to a reduction in sales. It is impacting people’s jobs. It is impacting the long-term socio-economic health and well-being of communities.
“I really believe we have a moral and ethical obligation to defend our record, our partners and our future,” he added.
Natural Resources and Forestry Minister Bill Mauro said he’s proud of the forest management system in place in the province and the legislation is some of the best in the world.
“We have a very vigorous forest management planning process that allows for community involvement, First Nation involvement, a broad range of consultation,” said the MPP.
With the forest sector a significant employer in the region, Mauro said over the last year, the MNRF has travelled to visit with forest product customers as far as Vancouver and New York.
“We have directly been talking to those customers to ensure they are aware of how sustainably we manage our forests here in Ontario,” said Mauro.
Northern Ontario Municipal Association president David Canfield said Resolute’s new campaign is “awful brave” on their part and is the right thing to do.
“It gets awful frustrating for us as municipal leaders to listen to these misinformation campaigns and this ideology,” said Canfield.
Northern communities have seen the detrimental effect of the NGOs campaigns and Canfield said as the industry rebounds, there is an opportunity to recapture jobs in a sustainable manner.
“We have someone trying to stop it,” he said. “They’re continually trying to stop it but obviously what they’re looking for in the campaigns and the propaganda they’re putting out there is exactly that.”
The people that should be making decisions about land use planning are the communities and First Nations, added Canfield.
He said if the North doesn’t fight back now, the region won’t be able to rebuild the forestry industry and do great things for the climate at the same time.
“The NGOs just want to take more and more productive forest out of the ability to harvest,” said Canfield. “It would stop some mills from restarting that could restart and it would jeopardize some mills that are already running.”
Canfield said organizations from outside of the region shouldn’t be making any kind of decisions about the boreal forest.
“I don’t go down to California or any other state and tell them how to do land use planning,” he said.
“That’s up to them. I’m very offended when they come up here and tell us how to do land use planning when they won’t even come and take a look. They have never walked the walk. They have no right to talk the talk.”
But Greenpeace Canada’s forest campaign co-ordinator Richard Brooks said their issue isn’t with practices across the entire boreal forest or even Ontario’s boreal forest; their main concern lies with one particular company — Resolute — and he feels this new campaign is a waste of time and money.
“They are spending literally tens of thousands of dollars to run these ads and more than $1 million at this point in legal fees in the lawsuits they filed against Greenpeace,” said Brooks.
“That could be better spent on finding solutions to the problems we’ve highlighted about Resolute’s forest operations both in Northern Ontario and northern Quebec as well.”
Greenpeace claims the company’s practices are leading to the extinction of the woodland caribou. The environmental activist group says the information they have shared is from scientists from both Environment Canada and the provincial government.
“If they are calling us liars, they are calling the federal government and the Ontario government liars,” said Brooks.
Both Greenpeace and Resolute can’t dictate how forests are managed — that’s up to the provincial government, and Brooks said they want to sit down with Resolute, the province, First Nations, unions and municipalities to come up with solutions.
“Rather than trying to attack Greenpeace through these marketing campaigns and greenwash their image, I really wish Resolute would take a different approach that was a lot more collaborative and take us up on our invitation to sit down with them and others,” said Brooks.