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e-4028 (Environment)

Initiated by Victor Brice from Nanaimo, British Columbia

Original language of petition: English

Petition to the Government of Canada

  • Indigenous peoples have rights and title 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 Government of Canada 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): The Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson, P.C., M.P.

Canada’s forests provide a wealth of environmental, economic, social and cultural benefits to Canadians. Through careful monitoring and planning, Canada’s forest sector manages the long-term health of its forests, both safeguarding these benefits in the face of challenges and finding new opportunities in a changing world.

Finding solutions also means working with Indigenous communities and leaders so that forest management and conservation practices are informed by Indigenous knowledge systems. Through the Indigenous Forestry Initiative (IFI), Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) is providing financial support to Indigenous-led projects in the forest sector — creating good jobs and supporting the stewardship of Canada’s forests. Since 2017, the program has supported 128 Indigenous-led, forest-based economic development projects and helped to create more than 787 jobs and 45 new or expanded businesses.

In addition to supporting traditional forestry activities, the IFI program supports communities seeking to develop opportunities in non-timber forest products such as food and health products, and forest biomass for renewable energy production. IFI projects have funded businesses that harvest, manufacture and sell products such as: natural health products based on traditional Indigenous pharmacopoeia; wild plant and fruit jellies and syrups; essential oils; sustainably produced firewood, wood, chips, wood pellets and biomass briquettes; and wild mushrooms, herbs and berries. Another priority area for funding from IFI is in forest stewardship and forest-management opportunities. The program has helped to build capacity in the Indigenous forest sector by providing funding for training to build forest sector skills and technical capacity so that Indigenous partners and communities are better positioned to sustainably develop and manage forested areas on their traditional territories.

The IFI works directly with more than 100 Indigenous communities across the country. The program promotes active involvement of Indigenous communities in the sustainable development and use of natural resources by working in partnership with, among others, industry and other government organizations. NRCan’s regionally deployed Indigenous Forestry Liaison Officers engage with communities to build relationships, raise awareness of the program and opportunities in the forest sector, and facilitate the development of projects and partnerships. Many of these Regional Liaison Officers are Indigenous people, have backgrounds in forestry, and provide technical advice on forest and land management practices and forest products manufacturing.

British Columbia’s iconic old growth forests have deep-rooted cultural significance to Indigenous communities and are important to all British Columbians. They are also critical habitats for dozens of species at risk and migratory birds and are important natural stores of carbon.

The Departments of Environment and Climate Change Canada and NRCan are working together to put in place the British Columbia Old Growth Nature Fund, that will advance shared objectives for urgent protection of vital ecosystems, wildlife habitats and species at risk while also protecting carbon stores in Old Growth forests. The Old Growth Nature Fund is being established in collaboration with the Province of British Columbia, non-governmental organizations, and Indigenous and local communities.

This collaborative work to protect communities and diverse natural habitats, including by advancing Indigenous-led conservation efforts, is also crucial to securing a cleaner, healthier and greener future for Canadians.

Once established, the Old Growth Nature Fund will further complement the Enhanced Nature Legacy announced in 2021, and the Natural Climate Solutions Fund announced in 2020.

  • Enhanced Nature Legacy responds to the global biodiversity crisis, threats to Canada’s ecosystem and wildlife and pressures for sustainable recovery and well-being of Canadians, by: protecting 25% of Canada’s lands and freshwater by 2025; strengthening protection and recovery of species at risk and their habitats; advancing reconciliation through Indigenous leadership in conservation and supporting healthy natural infrastructure and increased access to nature.
  • Natural Climate Solutions Fund embraces the power of nature to reduce the effects of and adapt to climate change all while supporting biodiversity. This horizontal initiative includes three separate, but related, programs: NRCan’s 2 Billion Trees program, Environment and Climate Change Canada’s (ECCC) Nature Smart Climate Solutions Fund, and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Agricultural Climate Solutions Program.

Canada boasts the most forest area certified by internationally recognized, third party systems as being managed in a sustainable way, respecting ecological values and Indigenous rights. Three quarters of Canada’s managed public forests are certified to one or more of three sustainable forest management certification systems: the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, the Forest Stewardship Council, and the Canadian Standards Association.As with all forest industries in Canada, the wood pellet industry is governed by provincial legislation, regulations and policies that are the basis for sustainable forest management, and include protections for old-growth forests. Strict monitoring and enforcement measures ensure that Canada’s forests are harvested legally and sustainably.

Canadian wood pellets are primarily made from sawmill residues that are by-products of wood product manufacturing. The industry also uses branches and treetops from harvest operations, logs damaged by natural disturbances, or trees that are cut to manage long-term ecological values in the forest. If not used, these additional sources of wood fibre are typically left to decompose into the atmosphere, or may be burned onsite.

Supporting markets for all material harvested, as part of a sustainable forest management plan, ensures that no part of the harvested tree is wasted, and delivers economic benefits to Canadians.

Response by the Minister of International Trade, Export Promotion, Small Business and Economic Development

Signed by (Minister or Parliamentary Secretary): Arif Virani

Forests provide a wide range of economic, social and environmental benefits for people and communities across Canada. They are a major source of income and employment for 300 communities across the country, directly employing 205,000 workers, including over 11,500 Indigenous workers.

With respect to the proposal to ban the export of raw logs, logs are integral to the domestic manufacturing industry for a wide range of forest products including softwood lumber and other products like high value finished veneer panels. Domestic and international trade in logs is important for log harvesters and Canadian trade. The policy and process governing the export of logs harvested in British Columbia contained in Global Affairs Canada’s Notice to Exporters No. 102 form an important part of the Government’s efforts to ensure the right balance between log exports and domestic policy objectives.

The Government regularly reviews policies to ensure that Canada’s domestic policy objectives and trade opportunities are maximized and welcomes all ideas and proposals related to its policies, including those associated with the export of raw logs. The Department is committed to continuing to work and collaborate closely with all stakeholders and partners on this issue to achieve the best possible results for Canada.

Response by the Minister of Environment and Climate Change

Signed by (Minister or Parliamentary Secretary): The Honourable STEVEN GUILBEAULT

Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) would like to thank the petitioner for their interest in Canadian forests and forest ecosystems, in particular the old growth forests and habitats found in British Columbia (B.C.).

With respect to the five calls to the Government of Canada found in the petition, please note the following:

1. Canada is home to ecosystems that are globally significant in their capacity to absorb carbon, mitigate the impacts of climate change, and protect biodiversity. This includes 24% of the world’s wetlands, 25% of temperate rainforest areas and 28% of remaining boreal forests. In this context, the Government of Canada understands that the dual crises of climate change and biodiversity loss are connected and need to be tackled together.

That said, conservation and protection of Canada’s forests, including old-growth forests and ecosystems, is a shared responsibility. The vast majority of Canada's forests are located on provincial and territorial Crown lands. In B.C., approximately 96% of forests are on provincial crown land, where, under the Constitution Act, 1867, forest management is the jurisdiction of the provincial government. As such, forest management on those lands is within the jurisdiction of the B.C. government. At the same time, there is an important federal role to conserve migratory bird habitat, protect critical habitat of federally listed species at risk, and mitigate climate change.

With this in mind, the Mandate Letters of the Ministers of ECCC and Natural Resources include a commitment to help protect old growth forests, notably in B.C., by reaching a Nature Agreement with B.C., establishing a $50 million B. C. Old Growth Nature Fund, and ensuring First Nations, local communities and workers are partners in shaping the path forward for nature protection. This $50 million investment was made through Budget 2022.

The Old Growth Nature Fund will support efforts to halt logging of old-growth forests and is a key component of the Canada-B.C. Nature Agreement, which presents a unique opportunity to collaboratively advance nature conservation, species at risk and climate mitigation objectives in collaboration with provincial and Indigenous partners.

To this end, and in light of recent announcements from the Government of B.C. concerning moratoria on old growth forest harvesting, departmental officials have been working with their provincial colleagues, both to negotiate and finalize a Nature Agreement and to explore additional ways to encourage and support the province in its efforts to protect and restore habitat. This includes protecting the habitat of old growth-associated species such as Spotted Owl and Marbled Murrelet.

2. The Government of Canada appreciates that in addition to their habitat functions, forests are key to the health of our climate, influencing rainfall, temperature, and other metrics. Temperate old growth forests, like those in B.C., also function as important carbon reservoirs.

Appreciating the significance of forests to biodiversity conservation and climate, the federal government has contributed to protecting nearly 400,000 hectares of forest habitat in B.C. This includes conservation projects under programs such as the Target 1 Challenge, Natural Heritage Conservation Program, Ecological Gifts Program, and others.

Adding to these efforts, the Old Growth Nature Fund, referenced above, will deliver on the Ministers’ mandate letters by providing $50 million to the Government of B.C., to be matched by B.C., to permanently protect and conserve old growth forests in the province. The Fund will focus on protecting at-risk high productivity old growth forests that are of prime biodiversity value identified as important for species at risk, migratory birds, climate mitigation and reconciliation with Indigenous peoples. Specifically, federal funding will support planning and collaboration with B.C. and Indigenous communities, and provide incentives for third-party funders, to permanently protect and conserve large areas of at-risk old growth forests in the province.

Alongside this work, the federal government has made forests a central part of Canada’s plan to tackle climate change. The Old Growth Nature Fund in particular is expected to contribute directly to the Government of Canada's commitments to achieve Canada’s 2030 greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction goal and net-zero GHG emissions by 2050. The old growth temperate rainforests of B.C. are among the largest natural carbon sinks in the world (on a per hectare basis) and are among the most efficient ecosystems at capturing carbon in Canada.

Complementing this effort on a broader scale, the Government of Canada has also announced a series of funding initiatives of significance to forest ecosystems and forestry in Canada:

  • The Natural Climate Solutions Fund (NCSF), a $4 billion initiative over ten years to restore, better manage, and conserve Canada’s natural and managed ecosystems. The NCSF includes three complementary programs:
    • 2 Billion Trees program, led by Natural Resources Canada;
    • NSCF, led by ECCC; and
    • The Agricultural Climate Solutions (ACS) program, led by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.
  • The Nature Smart Climate Solutions Fund (NSCSF) involves $631 million over 10 years (2021-2031) to reduce 2-4 megatons of GHG emissions annually. Up to $36.9 million in funding has been allocated to support Indigenous communities to deliver projects that build capacity and advance Indigenous-led efforts on natural climate solutions, with a focus on improved management, conservation, and restoration of wetlands, grasslands and forests that result in reduced and captured GHG emissions.
  • Enhanced Nature Legacy, providing $2.3 billion in new funding over five years that will further contribute to the implementation of conservation measures for Canada’s land and freshwater ecosystems and wildlife. This includes the establishment of new provincial and territorial protected areas, Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas, and additional habitat restoration. Budget 2022 increased this investment by $780 million over five years for the NSCSF. It also included the announcement of further investments through the Low Carbon Economy Fund, a $2 billion fund that could, amongst other things, incent provinces to leave timber standing (for example, by creating other revenue streams for forests).
  • The recent Emissions Reduction Plan committed another $780 million to nature-based solutions, including the conservation, restoration and enhanced management of grassland, wetland, peatland and forest ecosystems.

The broader significance of Canada’s forests is also recognized in the Pan-Canadian Approach to Transforming Species at Risk Conservation in Canada, where forests are identified as a priority sector. Development of a conservation action plan for species at risk is currently underway in collaboration with forest sector partners and stakeholders to advance the protection and recovery of species at risk and enhance sector sustainability.

With respect to support for Indigenous community involvement in eco-system protection and climate action, including in forests and more broadly, it should be noted that under the NSCSF, described above, an Indigenous Partnership (NSCSF-IP) stream was established to provide targeted funding to enable Indigenous peoples to play a meaningful leadership role in natural climate solutions, as part of the Government of Canada’s commitment to Reconciliation. Through the NSCSF-IP, ECCC supports Indigenous organizations and communities to undertake Indigenous-led capacity building activities and on-the-ground projects for ecological restoration, improved land management, and conservation of wetlands, grasslands, agricultural lands and forests that result in reduced GHG emissions, and that maximize co-benefits for biodiversity, climate resiliency, and human well-being.

Beyond this, ECCC has also funded approximately 115 First Nations, Inuit and Métis Guardians initiatives since 2017, with investments totaling over $46 million. Indigenous Guardians initiatives support Indigenous rights and responsibilities in protecting and conserving ecosystems - including old-growth forests, developing and maintaining sustainable economies, and continuing the profound connections between the Canadian landscape and Indigenous culture. Indigenous Guardians are Indigenous peoples exercising their cultural responsibilities through on-the-ground stewardship of traditional lands, waters, air, and ice. They act as the “eyes and ears on the ground”.  Indigenous Guardians funding supports on-the-ground activities such as ecological and cultural resource monitoring, restoration, and visitor experience activities, contribution to cultural continuity (e.g., intergenerational knowledge transmission) and implementation of Indigenous conservation practices and Indigenous knowledge.

Open for signature
May 20, 2022, at 2:15 p.m. (EDT)
Closed for signature
July 19, 2022, at 2:15 p.m. (EDT)
Presented to the House of Commons
Elizabeth May (Saanich—Gulf Islands)
September 21, 2022 (Petition No. 441-00670)
Government response tabled
November 4, 2022
Photo - Elizabeth May
Saanich—Gulf Islands
Green Party Caucus
British Columbia