In some of our operating communities in Canada, Aboriginal peoples form a large segment of the population. Resolute Forest Products respects the significance of Canada’s land, water and forests to its Aboriginal peoples; we also understand that these resources are critical to the prosperity of their communities.
Aboriginal relations and economic partnerships are recognized in Resolute’s materiality assessments and updates, which define issues that are of high concern to our stakeholders, and are also addressed in our sustainability reporting.
Resolute ranks Aboriginal relations and economic partnerships as ‘highly material’, meaning that the company recognizes the increasing importance of establishing and developing mutually beneficial partnerships. Aboriginal peoples are key business partners for Resolute, and they represent a growing segment of the forest products industry workforce.
Nurturing Constructive Relationships
We are committed to nurturing constructive working relationships with Aboriginal peoples, including the need to respect treaties and traditional land rights, to pursue mutually beneficial commercial relationships, and to support socio-economic prosperity and viability.
Resolute developed an Aboriginal Peoples Policy in 2013 following an analysis of industry best practices. The policy outlines our commitment to building strong relationships, ensuring that Aboriginal communities are consulted in decisions impacting their communities, and we work to develop shared economic prosperity.
In Ontario, First Nations and Aboriginal communities are consulted as part of the development of forest management plans. In Quebec, harvest blocks must be harmonized with First Nations and Aboriginal communities to ensure that any issue they may have is voiced and considered in the finalization of the harvest block prior to granting authorization for logging.
Aboriginal communities can also raise issues during third-party certification audits that are reported to the provincial or federal governments and occasionally to the public. Resolute conducts internal audits, called direction management reviews, prior to third-party certification audits to help identify, define and track any issues related to Aboriginal affairs.
In most, if not all, woodlands operations, we use ISO 14001-certified systems to track all incidents, including those involving Aboriginal communities. Resolute mostly tracks incidents at the divisional level, as the majority are related to woodlands operations (forestry). These tracking systems were primarily designed to support forest management certification audits and to provide evidence for certification requirements related to Aboriginal harmonization. Incidents are brought to the attention of the appropriate parties as soon as possible.
Resolute is currently evaluating our Aboriginal relations knowledge management and tracking system in order to formalize incident reporting and remediation.
In 2015, Resolute became a member of the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business (CCAB) in order to expand our consultative and commercial partnerships. CCAB fosters sustainable business relations and opportunities between First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples, and the Canadian business sector.
Forest Management Planning
Open dialogue between management and Aboriginal communities is maintained in all locations where Resolute operations impact Aboriginal peoples. Regular meetings are held to discuss topics of mutual importance, such as distribution of harvest zones, energy conservation and noise control as well as developments of interest to the communities, like new access roads.
We maintain and nurture these relationships through public consultations and cooperative agreements in an effort to create collaborative approaches and foster sustainable economic activities. These public consultations are an essential step in the sustainable and responsible forest management planning process. Resolute actively engages Aboriginal peoples in the review of our harvesting plans to ensure that the company accounts for local cultural, environmental, social and economic considerations.
While industry is often called upon to participate in discussions, in Canada, the legal responsibility to consult with First Nations and Aboriginal peoples and harmonize forest management practices with their traditional land uses lies with government. Within this framework, Resolute collaborates with Aboriginal peoples and governments to promote constructive discussions that we hope lead to long-term solutions.
Maintaining Relationships with First Nations and Aboriginal Peoples
In Ontario, the company maintains close ties with 27 First Nations and Aboriginal communities and collaborates on the development of mutually acceptable management plans for the areas where we operate. In Quebec, Resolute regularly engages with 12 different First Nations and Aboriginal communities to harmonize our operating plans with their traditional land use practices.
In a few cases, agreements have not been reached due to a variety of factors.
- In Quebec, a territorial dispute between the Cree, the Innu and the Government of Quebec is one of the major factors behind the suspension of one of Resolute’s Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC®) certificates, as detailed in the Forest Certification section. This issue stems from a 2012 complaint filed against one of Resolute’s forest management certificates in the Lac-Saint-Jean region, followed by a formal complaint and the initiation of legal proceedings against the Quebec government. A resolution was reached in July 2015 between the Quebec government and James Bay Cree representatives to harmonize forest operations with Cree hunting, fishing and trapping activities in the Baril-Moses area. The suspension of Resolute’s forest management certificate in the region has been extended through July 2016 while the government continues to work through outstanding issues, and to ultimately provide time for Resolute to work through the Forest Stewarship Council® (FSC®) process.
- Another dispute involves the Algonquins of Barrière Lake in Quebec, who sent a statement to the provincial government concerning a lack of consultation over logging permits issued for the area in 2012. These consultations are carried out by government representatives, with or without the involvement of Resolute. The challenge here stems from an unresolved matter in the trilateral territorial agreement between the provincial and federal governments and the First Nation. It is the government’s responsibility to settle this dispute.
- The Atikamekw First Nation, also in Quebec, declared sovereignty over a 19.8-million-acre (8-million-hectare) area in September 2014. The community has stated that it will not allow any forest operations on its territory in Quebec unless it has given prior approval, a process that must be led by the provincial government.
Mutually Beneficial Initiatives
Resolute has a number of partnerships with members of First Nations and Aboriginal communities. These include working together to identify employment and contracting opportunities, providing support for educational programs and cultural-landmark mapping, and collaborating on agreements, planning, road construction and forest regeneration. The following examples from 2014 illustrate what is possible when we join forces on sustainable initiatives.
Multi-year contracts in excess of C$100 million were awarded to seven First Nations resulting from Resolute’s Northwestern Ontario investments in the Atikokan and Ignace sawmills, as well as from the production capacity increase at the Thunder Bay sawmill and the addition of a wood pellet plant at the Thunder Bay site. The Memorandums of Agreement, one renewed in February 2015 and another signed in May 2015, have yielded contracts for: construction work at Resolute’s area sawmills; the transportation of wood chips, biomass and lumber from the sawmills; yard services to manage the loading and unloading of logs, lumber and by-products; and log harvesting and delivery. These contracts are in addition to existing agreements, worth approximately C$50 million a year, at other operations in the region. The nations that are parties to these memorandums include:
In the Lac-Saint-Jean region of Quebec, Resolute worked with the Mashteuiatsh First Nation and the Government of Quebec to complete a consolidation project after the company’s Roberval sawmill closed in 2014. As a result, over 50% of the Roberval wood allocation was transferred to the community of Mashteuiatsh, while the remainder went to our La Doré and Saint-Félicien sawmills.
Resolute also signed an agreement with the Council of the Innu of Pessamit in June 2015. Titled "A Balance Between the Protection of Nitassinan and Economic Development," the collaboration will lead to the recruitment, training and hiring of Innu labor. Members of the Pessamit community will benefit from a range of job opportunities at Resolute operations. The agreement will also lead to investment in Innu businesses in the forest, biofuel and wildlife industries.
Partnerships and Ventures
- Our Thunder Bay (Ontario) sawmill, which operates under a unique business model with Resolute and the Fort William First Nation, is the first facility in Canada to work under regulations created under the First Nations Commercial and Industrial Development Act, which facilitates industrial development with First Nations on their land.
- Resolute has been purchasing seedlings from a tree nursery established in the late 1990s by the Wabigoon Lake Ojibway Nation (Ontario) with the company’s help. The company purchases more than 1.5 million seedlings annually from this venture to support regeneration activities.
- The Opitciwan (Quebec) sawmill is a unique joint venture that has operated successfully since 1999. The Atikamekw Council of Obedjiwan has a 55% interest in the joint venture, while Resolute owns 45%. In September 2013, the sawmill was awarded the prestigious Aboriginal Business Leadership Award by the Forest Products Association of Canada (FPAC) and the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business (CCAB), among other awards received from the Royal Bank of Canada and Industry Canada in the early 2000s.
- Through our ongoing partnership with the community of Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg, we carry out forest management and harvesting activities and pay a stumpage fee in exchange for volumes allocated to the First Nation by the Quebec government.
Creating Opportunities for First Nations Youth
Resolute recognizes the importance of fostering long-term prosperity for First Nations through the creation of opportunities for young people in the communities where we operate.
- In 2015, we helped set up and contributed financially toward the creation of a Leadership Chair in Aboriginal Education in Forestry, a new program aimed at strengthening employment opportunities in Aboriginal communities in Quebec.
- The Canadian Chamber of Commerce named Resolute and Roger Barber, our General Manager – Ontario Woodlands, to its list of Canada’s Resource Champions for 2015. This nomination acknowledges Mr. Barber’s long-time commitment to nurturing constructive partnerships with First Nations, and highlights his role in launching a local First Nations youth training program.
- In 2015, Resolute partnered with First Nations communities and Cambrian College in Ontario to launch a pilot program encouraging First Nations students to pursue trade careers as industrial millwrights. In January 2016, six students entered the program and are expected to graduate in the fall of 2017.
More information on our numerous Aboriginal partnerships and other mutually beneficial initiatives is available at borealforestfacts.com.