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Greenpeace enlists Cree of Waswanipi in its work as Forest Product Association of Canada enforcer and CBFA whitewasher

Blog posts reflect the views of their authors, and are not subject to Media Co-op journalistic standards.
Greenpeace enlists Cree of Waswanipi in its work as Forest Product Association of Canada enforcer and CBFA whitewasher

After signing an agreement with the Forest Products Association of Canada to not criticize it publicly and endorse its products as green in the international market, Greenpeace is going after non-FPAC members -- in this case, EACOM on Cree land.

Great, right? It's a short-term gain for the Cree of Waswanipi, who get much-needed support for their struggle, to be sure. And it's hard to criticize any community's choice to accept support in what is effectively a struggle for survival. The same criteria do not apply to Greenpeace, an organization with over 2.8 million members and $196.6 million in revenue in 2008.

Greenpeace will not be helping out, and is contractually bound to not help out, communities like Barriere Lake (where FPAC member AbitibiBowater does its cutting) or Grassy Narrows (where the community has called for a boycott against Weyerhauser), because of its deal. These communities will have to go it alone.

Check out an old page about Grassy Narrows on the Greenpeace site: information about the community's struggle is covered over with an ad for the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement. That's part of the agreement: Greenpeace has to remove or mitigate critical materials that it has about FPAC members' boreal operations on its site.

Grassy Narrows recently issued a call to boycott FPAC member Weyerhauser. This time, they'll have to do it without Greenpeace's support. In fact, Greenpeace is contractually bound under the CBFA to defend Weyerhauser's boreal forest operations from public criticism.

The Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement was negotiated without any First Nations involvement, and drew a good deal of criticism as a result. Recently, CBFA proponents have been trying to retroactively convince First Nations to endorse the CBFA, with mixed results.

Critics of the deal maintain that by negotiating a deal without First Nations input, the signatories are engaging in a de facto violation of the sovereignty of the Nations that are affected by the decision.

So, after eroding the sovereignty of communities whose forests are being cut by FPAC members, Greenpeace is papering that over with a relationship with the Cree of Waswanipi. The fact that Greenpeace is backing up a Cree community is great... if you ignore the context.

The fact is, it's doing that to cover up its CBFA hijinx and ultimately act as the enforcer for FPAC.

Since Greenpeace has signed the CBFA, the obvious reason for them to target EACOM (again, not a FPAC member) is to pressure EACOM to join FPAC, and to make life as a non-signatory to the CBFA more difficult while giving signatories a competitive advantage as "green" products.

The question is: if EACOM signs on with FPAC and the CBFA, and then maintain the same cut rate while adopting undefined ecosystem-based management practices (which is what CBFA members get out of the deal), where will that leave the Cree of Waswanipi?

They'll be back to where they started, because Greenpeace will be obliged to stop supporting them under the agreement it signed. In fact, if they don't think that cutting the same amount of trees using "better practices" is acceptable, then they'll find themselves to be the de facto enemies of Greenpeace.

The outstanding question is: why doesn't Greenpeace support indigenous sovereignty across the board, instead of doing so in a manner that is selective and divisive? Unlike the Cree of Waswanipi, it's hard to say that Greenpeace doesn't have the resources available to make this decision.

UPDATE: Greenpeace has verbally supported Grassy Narrows in asking the government to stop granting new logging concessions. The blog post is very carefully worded: there is no mention in the blog post about FPAC member and CBFA signatory Weyerhauser, the company that is behind the government's new logging permits. Under the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement, Greenpeace cannot join the community's call for a boycott of Weyerhauser, limiting its support to symbolic declarations. Any kind of direct action or blockade along the lines of Waswanipi is out of the question, unless the logging company is not an FPAC member.

Appendix A: CBFA Excerpts

From page 4:

d)    “Boreal Zone” is defined as the broad, circumpolar vegetation zone of high northern latitudes covered principally with forests and other wooded land consisting of cold-tolerant trees species primarily within the genera Abies, Larix, Picea, or Pinus but also Populus and Betula; the zone also includes lakes, rivers, and wetlands, and naturally treeless areas such as alpine areas on mountains, heathlands in areas influenced by oceanic climatic conditions, and some grasslands in drier areas1;

From page 33:

c) ENGO communications (e.g., websites and social media) and other marketplace work related to the boreal including different sources of supply within the boreal will, subject to Section 2, support products from the boreal operations of FPAC members (Timing: Effective immediately and ongoing thereafter);

...

d) The following will apply to advocacy work and other communications where ENGOs express their ongoing a preference for FSC certification or its certified products, or comment on other certification programs or products certified under other certification programs (timing: effective immediately and ongoing thereafter):
i) ii)
ENGOs will not, in any of their communications, cite forestry operations of FPAC Members in the boreal as negative examples of certified practices; and Where an FPAC Member demonstrates an impediment to selling forest products to a specific customer from the boreal as a result of past or current advocacy work or communications, ENGOs will communicate with that customer to confirm they are receiving all joint communications related to progress in implementing the CBFA and that this should be taken into consideration in making procurement decisions;

...

i)    Encourage those developing procurement policies to construct their procurement policy in a manner that does not preclude forest products from the boreal operations of FPAC Members (timing: effective immediately and ongoing thereafter);


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dru (Dru Oja Jay)
Montreal
Member since Janvier 2008

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Writer, organizer, Media Co-op co-founder. Co-author of Paved with Good Intentions and Offsetting Resistance.

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You are confused

Why is the media co-op doing what Fox News, taking a hate-on for an organization or segment of the population and ignoring the facts?

Just last month Greenpeace issued a support statement to Grassy Narrows and their fight for the territory. This has not changed in the 7 years that Greenpeace has been running their boreal campaign.

http://www.greenpeace.org/canada/en/Blog/greenpeace-supports-grassy-narrows-first-nati/blog/26612

Read the agreement, Grassy Narrows traditional territory and the territory of the Algonquins of Barriere Lake is NOT covered under the boreal agreement. There is nothing stopping Greenpeace from supporting these communities at all. 

AbitibiBowater does NOT log in Grassy Narrows territory nor get wood chips from there. They pulled out in June 2008! and gave up their license to manage the Whiskey Jack Forest too! You are completely lying.

http://www.greenpeace.org/canada/en/press-centre/press-releases/abitibi-stops-logging-grassy-narrows/

Its completely unethical journalism that you are practicing. Why can't you just recognize that what Greenpeace did was a good thing? That what the Cree are calling for is something worth supporting? You tarnish the Cree's demands - basically ignore them in your post - when they deserve real attention and support. 

Portrait de dru

Fox news, reporting live

Hi Pierre,

First, these are my opinions, and not those of the Media Co-op. It says so clearly at the top of the page.

You are correct that AbitibiBowater pulled out. I put the parenthetical note in the wrong place, and I have corrected it above. It's actually Weyerhauser that is being targeted for a boycott right now by Grassy Narrows. Greenpeace can support Grassy in asking the government not to grant new concessions, but it cannot, insofar as it concerns boreal forest, join any boycott of Weyerhauser. It says so in the agreement. I just double checked. That said, I added a link to the GP blog post "supporting" Grassy Narrows above for the purpose of fairness.

I don't have a "hate on" for Greenpeace. I genuinely think that the CBFA is a really damaging agreement, and represents a turn for the worst at Greenpeace, an organization that I admired quite a bit before they started shopping themselves out as a corporate greenwashing outfit (e.g. the Olympics, Coke, etc.).

I still think that there is hope for Greenpeace, but it would require a renunciation of corporate collaboration and the institution of some kind of democratic structure at what is still largely a member-funded organization. I hope you'll consider working towards that from within, because there's not a lot we can do on the outside.

As for the Cree of Waswanipi, this post was not about them, as you may have noticed.

As for being a liar and completely unethical, I would hope that you can take a page from Jon Stewart (loath him though I do) and recognize that we can disagree about the fundamental meaning of the CBFA without resorting to hyperbole or name-calling.

Dru

Greenpeace and Waswanipi Cree

I just have to point out that your framing of Waswanipi as a community desperate to enlist the help of Greenpeace in "their struggle" is inaccurate,  somewhat condescending, and runs counter the argument you are trying to make about the CBFA.

First, Greenpeace approached both Waswanipi and the Grand Council of the Crees for support of their action--not the other way around. The Crees have been concerned about the proposed forestry development in this region since 2008, when they settled out-of-court with Quebec to force the application of environmental assessments under the JBNQA Treaty. These environmental assessment are currently ongoing and the Crees are actively raising their concerns through this process.

Second, under the forestry regime of the Paix des Braves Agreement, the local trappers directly affected by these roads have rejected the plans and called for formal conciliation, such that these roads plans have yet to be formally approved by the Minister.

Finally, the full Council/Board of the Grand Council of the Crees passed a resolution in 2008 calling for a moratorium on all development in this region until the issue of the endangered forest dwelling woodland caribou could be properly addressed. A related press release was issued.

As can be seen, this issue is not new and Waswanipi has been actively working on this invoking legal action, and various measures under the Treaty and the Paix des Braves Agreement. None of these actions involved Greenpeace or any other environmental groups. Suffice to say, that Greenpeace's involvement is just one other means in a long list of strategies that Waswanipi has already deployed.

Your editorial continues on the spectrum that suggests that First Nations are mere pawns to a larger discussion that is occurring between environmental groups, companies and governments. Indeed this is one of main reasons that you oppose the CBFA--its lack of inclusion of First Nations. While this is a valid point, your portrait of Waswanipi and Grassy Narrows for that matter as communities desperate to enlist the support of Big Box Environmental Organizations so that they can gain entry to the to discussion is misguided.

Portrait de dru

You provide some useful background information

Thanks for filling in the Cree side of the story. That's useful.

But I think that you are misrepresenting what I said, and the facts about the CBFA. Here are the two lines I wrote about the Cree:

It's a short-term gain for the Cree of Waswanipi, who get much-needed support for their struggle, to be sure. And it's hard to criticize any community's choice to accept support in what is effectively a struggle for survival.

Nowhere do I say that the struggle is new. You seem to imply that by calling it a "struggle," I'm being condescending. Perhaps you could explain how you see that to be the case.

I simply pointed out that they have fewer resources -- and, I would add now, less media clout -- than Greenpeace, and said that I couldn't criticize them for accepting Greenpeace's support, despite the organizations recent slights towards Indigenous rights. I never said that any of the communities are desperate or weak. I never said, or implied, that they are pawns, but I'll say for the record that they are not, and certainly should not be treated as such. I said that it was a struggle for survival.

If you believe any of the things I actually said to be untrue, then let's discuss it.

The fact remains that when an organization like Greenpeace declares that they've saved the Boreal Forest, it has a huge impact on everyone. And that's the headline:

Greenpeace lauds historic new pact to save Canada’s Boreal Forest

Not "Greenpeace makes partnership for slight improvement in logging practices," which would have been accurate. And definitely not "Greenpeace backs up community struggles," which would have been false.

Every time a community like Grassy or Barriere Lake fights a logging company, they're going to have to overcome all the usual shit -- racism, apathy, dept of Indian affairs, police repression -- but then they also have to overcome the idea that Greenpeace and the CBFA already saved the Boreal Forest. And worse, they have to fight a PR battle with GP et alia on the other side.

The key is that it doesn't matter if their territory is formally covered by the CBFA. A whole slew of ENGOs has signed an agreement that they have to defend the Boreal products from those companies. So if Grassy calls for the boycott of Weyerhauser's Boreal products, Greenpeace (and all the others who are equally to blame but from whom this shit is expected) is contractually bound to say "Weyerhauser is using world-leading ecosystem based management practices, and we endorse their products as being among the most responsibly produced".

Greenpeace and the other signatories aren't just not supporting communities. They're contractually bound to undermine communities if they try to use a boycott or public relations campaigns to go after FPAC members.

One quick question: what will happen if EACOM decides to become an FPAC member and CBFA signatory? Do you see that scenario as being in the interests of the Cree of Waswanipi?

Corporate sellouts?

I am confused by your statements Dru and what you have said recently at the downstream conference in Alberta. You say that Greenpeace and others are corporate sell-outs for noting when a company makes a positive and real change to lessen their impact on the environment.  I don't think that Greenpeace has ever professed to being an anti-capitalist or anti-corporation organization.

So how would they sell out if these are not their principles in the first place? If you think that commending any company for doing anything right or making some positive change is bad, then I would be interested in hearing more about your theory of change, positive change.  When a child does something good, do you not try to reinforce this behaviour by saying good job, while not forgetting that there is a lot more 'growing' that the child needs to do? I think it is the same with consuming companies - noting that they have done something positive on one front and being very specific with the use of language (i.e not calling Coca Cola the best company in the world because they decided to stop using climate destroying gases in their coolers) is helpful in driving corporate change. Its important for organizations to be very careful and ascertain if that change is really making a positive impact  (there are some organizations that greenwash companies) before they saying something positive of course. 

While we are dismantling the system, which will take years, can we afford not to have things begin to improve in some places? to save some last areas of forest from resource extraction? 

Portrait de dru

Greenwashing

Hey Paul,

I'm pretty sure I didn't say the words you've ascribed to me. If you want to reference a specific quote where I said that they were sellouts without reference to a particular situation, the burden of proof is on you to provide such a quote.

One of the things I did say is that Greenpeace, ForestEthics and others signed protocol agreements with First Nations and community groups, and then made the decision to violate those agreements. With reference to your point, I would say that signing an agreement is one of the stronger ways that we affirm our values. In conclusion, those values that they broke were in fact pre-existing, and in that case, Greenpeace sold out the communities.

As for your analogy: when a child undertakes to destroy the planet, do you reward them when they pause briefly from destroying the planet, and give them license to legitimately destroy a part of the planet equal to the amount that they could have destroyed while they were taking a break? Or do you simply stop them from destroying the planet?

Your assumption seems to be that the CBFA is actually saving some areas from extraction, and that the amount saved is enough to outweigh the legal and ethical violations that the signing represented. Is that your position? I think that that assumption is wrong on both counts, and I think that the existing material on the CBFA explains why. If you have any questions, let me know.

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