Resolute Forest Products recognizes and respects the cultural and social significance of the land, water and forests to Indigenous Peoples. We also understand these resources are critical to their future prosperity and economic sustainability. We share a common interest in ensuring that the forests we rely upon continue to provide for cultural, environmental and economic needs of future generations.
Resolute is committed to supporting and maintaining constructive relationships with First Nations and other Indigenous communities in our operating regions. In some of these regions, Indigenous Peoples form a large segment of the population. Our focus is on developing employment and business opportunities of mutual benefit. We have ongoing consultative relationships and business partnerships with close to 40 Indigenous communities and organizations.
Nurturing Constructive Relationships
We are committed to nurturing constructive working relationships with Indigenous 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.
In 2013, we developed an Indigenous Peoples Policy that outlines our commitment to building strong relationships, ensuring Indigenous communities are consulted in decisions impacting their communities, and developing shared economic prosperity.
Our Indigenous Procurement Policy Guidelines further strengthens our commitment to Indigenous communities across Ontario and Quebec. Our goal is to provide equitable access to commercial opportunities and to promote the economic participation of Indigenous Peoples and businesses in the forest products sector. In 2022, through this policy, more than $123 million in contracts were awarded to Indigenous businesses
Forest Management Planning
Open dialogue between management and Indigenous communities is maintained in all locations where Resolute operations have an impact on Indigenous Peoples. Regular meetings are held to discuss topics of mutual importance, such as distribution of harvest zones, energy conservation, noise control and access roads. We maintain and nurture these relationships through public consultation and cooperative agreements that foster sustainable economic activities. Resolute actively engages Indigenous Peoples in the review of our harvesting plans to ensure that the company accounts for local cultural, environmental, social and economic considerations.
Indigenous 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 Indigenous affairs. Our woodlands operations use ISO 14001-certified environmental management systems to assess environmental risks, including those affecting Indigenous communities. Tracking systems designed to support EMS certification audits provide evidence for forest management certification requirements related to Indigenous harmonization.
In Canada, the legal responsibility to consult with Indigenous Peoples and harmonize forest management practices with their traditional land uses lies with government. Within this framework, Resolute collaborates with all parties to promote constructive discussions and long-term solutions.
Partnerships and Ventures
Our Thunder Bay (Ontario) sawmill, which operates under a unique business model with Fort William First Nation, was the first facility in Canada to work under regulations within the framework of the First Nations Commercial and Industrial Development Act, which facilitates industrial development with First Nations on their land. In 2021, we held a press event in Thunder Bay to celebrate this 20-year partnership, including the announcement of C$17 million investment at the facility, which employs about 250 workers, approximately 20% of whom are Anishinabek.
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%. The facility employs 50 workers, more than 80% of whom are Atikamekw.
Mutually Beneficial Initiatives
Resolute strives to identify employment and contracting opportunities for Indigenous communities and businesses, in addition to providing support for educational programs and cultural-landmark mapping and collaborating on land agreements & planning, road construction and forest regeneration. The following examples illustrate what is possible when we join forces on sustainable, mutually beneficial initiatives.
In Ontario, the company maintains close ties with 19 First Nations, collaborating on the development of mutually acceptable management plans for the areas where we operate. Signed memorandums of agreement with several of these communities yield multi-year contracts for Indigenous businesses in excess of C$59 million annually: construction work at Resolute’s sawmills; 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.
Resolute’s Northwestern Ontario investments in its Atikokan and Ignace sawmills, as well as from the production capacity increase at the Thunder Bay sawmill, continue to provide opportunities to the First Nations that are parties to these memorandums, including:
In Quebec, Resolute regularly engages with 12 different Indigenous communities, harmonizing our operating plans with traditional land use practices and building lasting partnerships. Harvest blocks must be harmonized with Indigenous communities to ensure that any issue they may have voiced is considered in the finalization of the harvest block prior to granting authorization for logging.
In the Lac-Saint-Jean region of Quebec, Resolute worked with the Pekuakamiulnuatsh Takuhikan First Nation of Mashteuiatsh and the Government of Quebec after the company’s Roberval sawmill closed in 2014 in order to transfer more than 50% of the facility’s wood allocation to this Indigenous community. In 2018, we subsequently signed a five-year agreement with the First Nation for access to approximately 250,000 m3 of wood fiber per year, and in 2021, began contributing C$3,000 to the First Nation’s economic development corporation to support the development of female entrepreneurship.
Through our ongoing partnership with the community of Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg, we carry out forest management and harvesting activities, in addition to paying stumpage fees in exchange for volumes allocated to the First Nation by the Quebec government. In 2020, we renewed our agreement with Kitigan Zibi for access to approximately 151,900 m3 of wood fiber in the Outaouais region.
In addition, Resolute has memorandums of agreement with Lac-Simon and Waswanipi First Nations in the Abitibi-Témiscamingue region, as well as Pessamit (Betsiamites) First Nation in the Côte-Nord region and the Obedjiwan First Nation in Mauricie.
Creating Opportunities for Indigenous Youth
Resolute recognizes the importance of fostering long-term prosperity for Indigenous communities through the creation of opportunities for young people in the communities where we operate.
- In 2015, we helped set up the Leadership Chair in Indigenous Education in Forestry at the Université de Laval, that is focused on strengthening employment opportunities in Indigenous communities in Quebec.
- In 2016, we signed memorandums of agreement with Confederation College in Thunder Bay (Ontario) and the Anishinabek Employment & Training Service (AETS), an Indigenous employment and training organization that supports Indigenous Peoples who are transitioning into the workforce.
- In 2018, we also announced a C$150,000 contribution over five years to Confederation College’s Technology, Education and Collaboration (TEC) Hub Campaign to support best-in-class training opportunities for the region’s youth.
- In 2020, we launched a youth employment and training program in partnership with Wabigoon First Nation, including a C$25,000 contribution.
- In 2021, we made a C$25,000 contribution to the Lac des Mille Lacs Education Centre, an innovative and Indigenous-led school in Thunder Bay that focuses on experiential learning. Resolute’s contribution supported curriculum development, Anishinaabemowin (Ojibwe) language instruction, and the community’s hockey program.