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FSC initiates mediation to address problems in Canada


December 23, 2015
By Cindy Macdonald


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FSC International is convening a mediation process to bring together stakeholders “in a spirit of collaboration,” to address issues raised recently in Canada, particularly in Quebec and in Ontario, about FSC certification.

The proposal has received mixed reviews from Resolute Forest Products, government officials and forest industry unions.

The Forest Stewardship Council explains that over the last two years, significant areas of FSC-certified forests were suspended in Canada “mainly because of lack of consent from First Nations, and also because of inadequate forest management plans for species at risk, namely woodlands caribou in the Canadian boreal forest.”

The response from Resolute to the mediation request notes that any mediation process concerning forest management in Quebec or Ontario “must be led by the respective provincial governments, as they are clearly responsible for issues related to forest management planning.”

“Beyond the leadership of the provincial governments, it is critical that all of the parties impacted by forestry activities in the boreal forest be involved in any discussion concerning certification,” said Richard Garneau, president and chief executive officer of Resolute.

Resolute recently expressed concern regarding the viability of FSC certification in Canada given several significant challenges. The pulp and paper company says a growing number of Canadian companies have seen their FSC certificates suspended or terminated in recent months, including Arbec, Eacom and Domtar. Also, the forest company notes that the Coast Forest Conservation Initiative (CFCI) in October 2015 voluntarily terminated its FSC certificate for the Great Bear Rainforest in British Columbia, an area totaling nearly 850,000 hectares.

The mediation proposed by FSC International is focused more particularly on Resolute holdings in Ontario and Quebec. The certification organization believes “that this mediation will lead to constructive solutions and restore trust between First Nations, unions, communities, environmental groups and Resolute FP.”

Resolute has stipulated it will participate in a process that has government leadership, and is neutral, inclusive and transparent.

Quebec’s Minister of Forests, Wildlife and Parks, Laurent Lessard, responded that the FSC mediation initiative is an “interesting” one that could open a path to resolution of the problems that affects its members. “It is important that the mediation gives the members of FSC International a clear view to the rights and obligations of each of the stakeholders affected by certification and harvesting of Quebec’s forests,” said Lessard.

Lessard did not say whether the Quebec government would participate in FSC’s mediation. “Forest certification is a business decision, not an obligation of the government,” he stated. “On the other hand, our role in forest certification is to support the businesses that wish to obtain it.

At a recent high-level forum on intact forest landscapes, Minister Lessard told managers at FSC International that since certain companies in Quebec find their certificates suspended due to conflicts between members, FSC should develop avenues to regulate relations among its members.