Indigenous leaders from across New Brunswick presented to the Climate Change and Environmental Stewardship on forestry management practices and the spraying of the herbicide glyphosate, and they held nothing back.
The first to present was Wolastoq Grand Council Grand Chief Ron Tremblay and grandmother Alma Brooks. In a set of powerful speeches, the two laid out the duty of the government to consult, inform and get consent from the Indigenous communities when it comes to forestry practices.
“There is a system that governs things here on Earth, and that’s not you,” said Brooks. “But you thought you knew better.”
She spoke of the irreversible damage done to the natural resources and wildlife in the province.
We’re going in the wrong direction and that what you are doing is not sustainable, but you didn’t hear the message,” she said. “You didn’t hear the message because you didn’t listen. Today the world’s scientists are issuing code red warnings — we are on the verge of another mass extinction, and it is the human family.”
Brooks said Indigenous people are afraid to pick from the berries and plants they use in traditional medicine for fear it was poisoned with herbicide.
“The Earth is out of balance,” she told committee members. “Everything you are doing goes against the laws of nature.”
“There will be no mercy in nature,” she added. “She will show no mercy.”
Previous committee hearings
The committee previously held committee hearings with non-Indigenous leaders back in June. A total of 17 presentations were made and the government alongside committee members said it would meet over the summer to begin drafting some recommendations.
Both the Green Party and the People’s Alliance have called for a ban on glyphosate spraying in the province’s forestry sector.
In the 2020 election campaign, the Liberals promised to phase out glyphosate over four years under Kevin Vickers leadership, but no legislation has been tabled.
The Progressive Conservatives have tabled any legislation either, and that landed them with a failing grade from Stop Spraying New Brunswick last week.
The group focused on improving forestry practices in the province and banning glyphosate, gave the Liberals a D, and two C+ for the Greens and the People’s Alliance.
Consultation but no action
Indigenous leaders were clear when questioned by committee members about what they want to happen moving forward in the province.
Alma Brooks described New Brunswick as “corporate captured.” When asked by David Coon was consultation should look like, Brooks’s answer was simple.
“It should be free prior and informed consent,” she said. “Do you know what that means? We have the right to know exactly before they start mining or before they start clear-cutting or before they start spraying, we have a right to know.
Brooks made it clear consultation doesn’t mean much to the group barely hanging on the land and what it has left to offer.
St. Mary’s First Nations was also part of the consultation, alongside Pabineau First Nation, Tobique First Nation, and Kingsclear First Nation.
Cecelia Brooks was presenting on behalf of St. Mary’s First Nation, and when asked what she would want to see concerning glyphosate, she said, “stop spraying.”
When pressed further, Brooks said, “stop spraying our forests and we’ll go from there.”
“Foreigners have come in and are managing our land, unilaterally.”