Quebec highway blocked by aboriginal group seeking a say in forest sector

Canadian Press
Monday, March 12, 2007
[original article here]

GRAND-REMOUS, Que. (CP) – An aboriginal group blocked off a Quebec highway on Monday to protest logging activity.

Quebec provincial police said about 50 people set up the blockade around 5:30 a.m. on Highway 117, north of Ottawa. The protesters say the Quebec government reneged on a verbal agreement that ended earlier protests. Spokesman Guillaume Carle said the province has not allowed local off-reserve aboriginals to log in the region, as agreed.

“The protest is about the government of Quebec, the Liberals, lying to us,” Carle said in an interview as he drove to the protest site.

Two vans, a piece of heavy equipment, barrels and logs have been set up on the highway, the only route between the Laurentian and Abitibi-Temiscamingue regions of Quebec.

Carle said the province allowed rampant clear-cut logging in the region for four years but local aboriginals were not included in either the planning or the economic benefit.

“We’re being robbed,” he said.

He said protesters are also upset about living conditions for local aboriginals who live off reserves.

“No electricity, no heat, no water,” he said. “The conditions are unacceptable.” Last month, the protesters picketed the office of the Quebec minister of natural resources.

Carle said the group wants rights to logging in the region as well as a say in overall forestry planing.

The barrier will remain until Quebec sends someone to negotiate a proper agreement, he added.

Provincial police said they were trying to negotiate an end to the protest and that there were no immediate plans to dismantle the blockade.

“Above all, it has to be determined whether intervention would actually complicate things,” said police spokeswoman Melanie Larouche.

Larouche said police want to speak to all parties before taking action.

“Police are on site and ready to speak to these groups,” she said.


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