BONN, GERMANY - The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) International says it will convene a mediation process after Resolute Forest Products allowed its FSC certificates to lapse. FSC says it hopes "spirit of collaboration," to address issues raised in Quebec and Ontario provinces by Resolute's CEO, about FSC certification.
The problem? As FSC describes it, over the last two years, significant areas of FSC certified forests were suspended in Canada mainly because of lack of consent from First Nations, and also because of inadequate forest management plans for woodlands caribou, an endangered species in the Canadian boreal forest. Most of the suspended or terminated FSC certificates are held by Resolute Forest Products, FSC says.
"Based on a continued lack of dialogue between Resolute FP and its stakeholders, FSC believes that this mediation will lead to constructive solutions and restore trust between First Nations, unions, communities, environmental groups and Resolute FP," FSC said in a statement.
Montreal-based Resolute Forest Products' CEO, Richard Garneau, a critic of FSC's certification process, wants any arbitration to be led by the provincial governments, not FSC, "as they are clearly responsible for issues related to forest management planning," according to a company statement.
A growing number of Canadian companies have seen their FSC certificates suspended or terminated in recent months, according to Resolute Forest Products, including Arbec, Eacom and Domtar. In October 2015, the Coast Forest Conservation Initiative (CFCI) voluntarily terminated its FSC certificate for the Great Bear Rainforest in British Columbia, an area totaling nearly 850,000 hectares.
FSC wants to focus on Quebec, where it hopes to leverage provincial government support. It already has the support of the First Nations' free, prior and informed consent and the woodland caribou habitat recovery plan. The primary focus will be on the suspended Lac St-Jean FSC certificate and the terminated Mistassini FSC certificates. FSC believes this mediation could also help other forest management units impacted by similar issues in the area.
"FSC's goal is to provide the framework for a viable environment, securing sustainable employment while protecting the forest and upholding aboriginal and community rights," said Kim Carstensen, Director General, FSC International.
The announcement yesterday by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) of a mediation process to bring stakeholders together to address issues raised recently in Canada and particularly in Quebec regarding FSC certification is well received by the AFNQL.
"FSC Canada is leading the way towards the development of a forest management standard that respect the rights and social, ecological and economic needs of First Nations. The resolution of issues related to free, prior and informed consent of First Nations is paramount, as is the protection of our forests, including intact forest landscapes and Aboriginal cultural landscapes, and protection of species at risk, including caribou, an emblematic species for many First Nations. The AFNQL can only support such an approach, focused on solutions," said Ghislain Picard, AFNQL Chief.
Certain terms of commitment of the mediation process contemplated by FSC remain to be clarified, such as the mandate, deadlines and stakeholders involved, but this mediation is an opportunity to advance the issues of First Nations.
For Resolute's Garneau, workers in the lumber businesses should also be a party to the discussion, but has little good to say about some non-governmental environmental groups who would also be involved..
"It is critical that all of the parties impacted by forestry activities in the boreal forest be involved in any discussion concerning certification," said Garneau. "This includes First Nations, local communities and unions. Of course, we believe that environmental groups should have a voice in the process. Greenpeace, the only ENGO mentioned in FSC's proposal, has been engaged in a campaign of misinformation targeting Resolute. We believe it would be more appropriate to engage with responsible organizations with a track record of constructive engagement in the public policy discourse, to ensure that the process is neutral and fair."
Resolute says it has not been alone in expressing concerns about the viability of FSC certification in Canada, citing two letters: an October 28, 2015, letter by the Québec Forest Industry Council sent to FSC Canada as well as to Quebec's Minister of Forests, Wildlife and Parks; and a November 18, 2015, missive by the Ontario Forest Industries Association (OFIA) Ontario's Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry, voicing similar concerns. During the FSC International forum in Bonn, Germany, last month, FSC Minister Lessard called for a resolution to the issues.