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 shared priority issue 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, Aboriginal communities are consulted as part of the development of forest management plans. In Quebec, harvest blocks must be harmonized with 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 the majority of our 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. In 2018, we signed on as CCAB Aboriginal Procurement Champions, and we look forward to building on our membership with the organization.
Aboriginal Economic Participation in the Forest Products Sector
In keeping with our principles of corporate social, environmental and economic sustainability, Resolute has implemented Aboriginal Procurement Policy Guidelines to further strengthen our commitment to Aboriginal communities across Ontario and Quebec. Our goal is to provide equitable access to commercial opportunities and to promote the economic participation of Aboriginal peoples and businesses in the forest products 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 to 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 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 Aboriginal Peoples
In Ontario, the company maintains close ties with 27 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 Aboriginal communities to harmonize our operating plans with their traditional land use practices.
In one case, agreements were briefly delayed when the Algonquins of Barrière Lake in Quebec 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. Discussions on harmonization have continued with success, and harvest allocations have been released to the industry.
Mutually Beneficial Initiatives
Resolute has a number of partnerships with members of 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 illustrate what is possible when we join forces on sustainable initiatives.
Multi-year contracts in excess of C$100 million have been 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 2019, we also signed a memorandum of agreement with the Métis Nation of Ontario to establish a structure for ongoing cooperation and developing additional agreements and projects between the two parties.
In the Lac-Saint-Jean region of Quebec, Resolute worked with the Pekuakamiulnuatsh Takuhikan First Nation of Mashteuiatsh 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. In 2018, we signed a five-year agreement with the First Nation for access to approximately 250,000 m3 of wood fiber per year.
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.
- 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 Aboriginal Youth
Resolute recognizes the importance of fostering long-term prosperity for Aboriginal communities 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, former 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 Aboriginal youth training program.
- In 2016, we signed memorandums of agreement with Confederation College in Thunder Bay (Ontario) and with the Anishinabek Employment & Training Service (AETS), an Aboriginal employment and training organization that supports Aboriginal 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 that will help support the state-of-the art training center for Thunder Bay, best-in-class training opportunities for the region’s youth, and the development of a growing pool of highly educated talent ready to begin careers in the forest products sector.
More information on our numerous Aboriginal partnerships and other mutually beneficial initiatives is available at borealforestfacts.com.