Attorney General / Aboriginal Affairs Secretariat / Natural Resources

Minister's statement / Supreme Court of Canada decision on Aboriginal forestry (05/07/20)

NB 907

July 20, 2005

FREDERICTON (CNB) -- The following statement was issued by Attorney General and Minister responsible for Aboriginal Affairs Brad Green in light of today's decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in the case of R. v. Joshua Bernard:

"The Supreme Court of Canada has rendered a decision today in the case of R. v. Bernard on the rights of Aboriginals to harvest timber on Crown land.

"The court decision recognizes the Crown's duty to regulate the harvest of natural resources on Crown land. We will continue to discharge our obligations according to the law and ensure that the resource is managed in a responsible and sustainable way for the benefit of all New Brunswickers.

"Government and Aboriginal communities recognize that it was important to have the country's highest court provide us with direction on treaty and Aboriginal rights. This decision brings clarity to these important issues. We will use this decision as a foundation on which to build our partnership as we move forward.

"In recent years, we have worked with First Nation communities to help open up the forest industry to Aboriginals. We have put in place timber harvesting, sale and royalty agreements with New Brunswick's 15 First Nations and taken steps to create employment and offer skills upgrading for Aboriginals in the forest industry.

"The harvesting agreements have been built on the basis of good public policy, out of a desire to assist aboriginal people to become part of the forest industry and to assist with economic development in First Nation communities. We will continue to respect those agreements.

"We remain committed to working with New Brunswick's 15 First Nations, the federal government and industry to ensure the viability and sustainability of New Brunswick forests."


EDITOR'S NOTE: Background information follows. MEDIA CONTACT: Gary Toft, Office of the Attorney General, 506-453-6543; Nichole Bowman, Aboriginal Affairs, 506-444-4194; Brent Roy, Natural Resources, 506-453-7928.


In May 1998, Joshua Bernard, a Mi'kmaq from Eel Ground Reserve, was charged under the New Brunswick Crown Lands and Forest Act for having 23 spruce logs on the truck he was driving.

Bernard was convicted in April 2000 of illegally harvesting wood on Crown land.

The Court of Queen's Bench upheld the verdict in June 2001. In August 2003, in a 2-1 decision, the New Brunswick Court of Appeal overturned Bernard's previous conviction, ruling that Bernard had a treaty right to harvest and sell logs cut on Crown land that was historically occupied by Native people.

In October 2003, the province filed its request for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada. The Supreme Court of Canada grants application for leave to appeal in April 2004.

First Nations and Forestry - Significant Numbers

July 2005

First Nations Forestry Agreements

1998 - Interim commercial harvesting agreements enacted.

12,157 - Aboriginal population in New Brunswick

5.3 per cent - Percentage of Crown annual allowable cut allotted to First Nations.

$68 million - Mill delivered value of wood harvested by First Nations.

$19.1 million - Royalties paid to First Nation communities.

1.4 million m3 of total wood fibre harvested by First Nations.

1.15 million m3 of total softwood fibre harvested by First Nations.

240,000 m3 of total hardwood fibre harvested by First Nations.

About 191,000 m3 of softwood and 40,000 m3 of hardwood harvested annually since 1998.

Over 400 First Nations people employed.

The commercial harvest has provided employment opportunities for many First Nations people.

Forestry Jobs

15,000 - Direct employment.

13,000 - Indirect employment.

For every 1,000 m3 harvested and processed 2.8 jobs are supported.

$925 million - Annual wages and salaries.

$230 million - Income tax generated from workers.


14 - Communities are completely dependent on the forestry sector.

40 - Communities are highly dependent on this sector.

20 per cent - Forest sector's contribution to New Brunswick's GDP.

45 per cent - The value of provincial exports.

$4 billion - Forest products produced.

$3 billion - Forest products exported.

$2 billion - Production costs.

Specific Production Costs

$925 million - Wages/salaries.

$600 million - Wood purchase.

$43.5 million - Crown stumpage fees/royalties.

$250 million - Electricity consumption.

$21.3 million - Property tax.

$340 million - Capital investment by industry.