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e-3301 (Environment)

E-petition
Initiated by Adrian Hough from Nanaimo, British Columbia

Original language of petition: English

Petition to the House of Commons in Parliament assembled

Whereas:
  • Indigenous peoples have rights and titles to their traditional territories and have been stewards of these lands since time immemorial;
  • The climate crisis requires action by all levels of government and industry;
  • Old-growth forests provide immeasurable benefits, including carbon sequestration, biodiversity, culture, recreation, education, food and more;
  • Valley-bottom high productivity old-growth ecosystems in British Columbia are endangered;
  • Of the remaining 2.7% of original high productivity old-growth forests in British Columbia, 75% are still slated to be logged;
  • Only 9% of the original 360,000 hectares of valley-bottom high productivity old-growth on Vancouver Island remain today and only 2.6% of those forests are protected in parks;
  • The last unprotected intact old-growth valley on Southern Vancouver Island, Fairy Creek, is slated for logging, along with the upper Walbran Valley and other remaining pockets of old-growth; and
  • Most Canadians support sustainable harvesting of second and third growth forests, but do not support logging old-growth trees or destroying their surrounding ecosystems.
We, the undersigned, citizens and residents of Canada, call upon the House of Commons in Parliament assembled to:
1. Work with the provinces and First Nations to immediately halt logging of endangered old-growth ecosystems;
2. Fund the long-term protection of old-growth ecosystems as a priority for Canada’s climate action plan and reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples;
3. Support value-added forestry initiatives in partnership with First Nations to ensure Canada’s forestry industry is sustainable, and based on the harvesting of second and third growth forests;
4. Ban the export of raw logs and maximize resource use for local jobs; and
5 Ban the use of whole trees for wood pellet biofuel production.

Response by the Minister of Natural Resources

Signed by (Minister or Parliamentary Secretary): Mr. Marc G. Serré

The Government of Canada thanks the petitioners for expressing their views regarding British Columbia’s forests.

Canada’s 347 million hectares of forest make up nine percent of the world’s forests. According to the latest statistics, dating back to December of 2020, Canada is maintaining roughly 164 million hectares of forests that are certified as sustainably-managed by independent groups. That represents 36 percent of all certified sustainable forests in the world. No nation matches Canada’s record in this area. Furthermore, less than one percent of Canada's forest lands is harvested annually. That is significantly smaller than the roughly 5.5 percent of forest land burned by wildfires or affected by insects.

Additionally, the forest sector provided 205,000 jobs for Canadians in 2019, including about 12,000 jobs for Indigenous people. It was the primary source of economic well-being for 300 communities across Canada. As highlighted by the pandemic, forest sector services and products are essential to Canadians, helping to produce personal protective equipment from facemasks to hospital gowns.

Forests preserve soils, cycle nutrients, support biodiversity and act as natural cleansers, filtering pollutants from the air and water. Active and sustainable harvest and management of forests also provide critical long-term climate benefits. Protecting older forests allows for greater amounts of carbon to be stored, though it should be noted that mature trees can eventually begin to decay and become carbon emissions sources. Meanwhile, replanting allows for the removal of carbon from the atmosphere as new trees grow. Changes in forest management and the use of harvested wood products can therefore contribute to mitigating the impacts of climate change. The Government of Canada is also supporting the increased use of carbon-storing wood products as a substitution for emissions-intensive construction materials.

About 90 percent of Canada’s forests are located on provincial and territorial Crown lands, and provincial and territorial governments manage these forests in accordance with the Constitution. In British Columbia, the province owns about 96 percent of the forested land. Provinces and territories have exclusive powers to develop and enforce their legislation, standards and programs to ensure the development, conservation and management of forest resources. Although rules, regulations, and policies that guide forest management vary between provinces and territories, they are all based on the principles of sustainable forest management. By provincial law, the forest industry must renew and maintain all harvested areas to provide for the sustainability of Crown forests. British Columbia’sforest management regime requires licensees operating on Crown lands to meet consultation obligations. This includes the requirement that forest stewardship plans be shared and discussed with affected First Nations.

The Government of Canada works closely with provinces and territories to provide science that support sustainable forest management. The federal government is responsible for international trade in forest products and forest management on federal lands, and works closely with First Nations communities to ensure that they secure the economic benefits of Canada’s sustainable forestry industry.

Over 1.1 million Indigenous people in Canada live in or near forests and, in British Columbia, the more than 5,000 Indigenous employees in the forest sector represent approximately 10 percent of the labour force, according to the 2016 Census. Increasingly, Government of Canada scientists are carrying out collaborative research with Indigenous communities centred on knowledge co-creation. This means that forest science research and tools developed to support sustainable forest management practices are informed by western and Indigenous science, and reflect local cultures as well as community values and priorities. This approach is important to the government’s reconciliation efforts, as forests provide significant economic benefits to these communities. Forests are also essential to spiritual and cultural traditions for many Indigenous Peoples. Those traditions include hunting, trapping, and the harvesting of medicines and culturally significant plants.

In 2019, British Columbia became the first jurisdiction in Canada to introduce legislation to fully implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The legislation mandates that the provincial government bring its laws and policies into harmony with the UN Declaration’s objectives. It also mandated that future legislative amendments be required to enable joint and consent-based decision-making.

The Government of Canada has made significant commitments in its Strengthened Climate Plan to advance Indigenous climate leadership, making Indigenous environmental management a cornerstone of the Plan. Supporting self-determined climate action and providing inclusive decision-making guidance is critical to moving forward on reconciliation. This also includes guidance on working with First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples to co-develop decision-making processes and forestry management regimes that will ensure all of Canada’s future climate actions help promote Indigenous self-determination. Through programs such as the Indigenous Forestry Initiative, the Government of Canada is committed to working with Indigenous peoples to ensure that their communities gain long-term sustainable benefits from the forest sector through these value-adding opportunities. 

Log production is integral for the domestic manufacturing industry, as well as international markets, for a wide range of forest products, including softwood lumber. The forest industry depends on getting sustainably produced products to these markets in a balanced approach between sustainable forest management and economic growth. The Government of Canada’s Notice to Exporters No. 102, regarding theexports of logs from British Columbia, form an important part of the federal government’s efforts to ensure the right balance between log exports and sustainable forest management. Companies exporting forest products from British Columbia must first undergo a surplus testing procedure in consultation with the provincial government to determine whether adequate supply remains in Canada. This helps to ensure sustainability.

Like all forest industries in Canada, the wood pellet industry is governed by comprehensive provincial legislation, regulations, and policies that enable sustainable forest management. Strict monitoring and enforcement measures bolster provincial forest management, ensuring that Canada’s forests are harvested legally and sustainably. The majority of Canadian pellets, for instance, come from forests that have been certified for sustainable forest management. All Canadian industrial pellet exports are certified sustainable by the Sustainable Biomass Program—a third-party certification system demonstrating compliance with forest management regulations.

Canada has 47 pellet plants across the country, with an annual capacity of about 4.6 million metric tonnes. Canadian wood pellets are made from sawmill and harvesting scrap, created by other industrial processes such as lumber production. In some cases, pellets are made from damaged or low-quality logs not suitable for milling into lumber or other forest products. Reusing forest industry waste to produce pellets improves harvesting efficiency by ensuring no part of the tree is wasted. This also reduces the costs of managing residue removal from forests, and in turn, reduces forest fuel load and forest fire risk.

Canada’s strong system of forest laws, monitoring, and enforcement ensures that sustainable forest management is practiced in British Columbia and across the country in consultation and partnership with Indigenous peoples.

Open for signature
March 26, 2021, at 4:27 p.m. (EDT)
Closed for signature
April 25, 2021, at 4:27 p.m. (EDT)
Presented to the House of Commons
Paul Manly (Nanaimo—Ladysmith)
May 3, 2021 (Petition No. 432-00903)
Government response tabled
June 16, 2021
Photo - Paul Manly
Nanaimo—Ladysmith
Green Party Caucus
British Columbia
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