Our Voices Are Vital Solidarity Photo in Toronto w/ Bunny McDiarmid & Shane Moffatt.

Forests and nature in Canada go to the heart of our identity in many ways. With around 350 million hectares of forests overall, Canada is the third most forested country on Earth.

However, this International Day of Forests, there’s a new logging giant in Canada with murky connections to global deforestation. Industrial disturbance, loss of wildlife and climate change are all piling on the pressure.

Recent investigations have posed important questions about who exactly is profiting from all of this. But instead of helping, the federal government is still greenwashing a destructive industry. We need answers and we need stronger laws to protect nature.

Let’s look at this big new threat to the forests in greater detail and how you can take action today.

Media investigations into Paper Excellence create political shockwaves

Over the past week, CBC News, Glacier Media and the Halifax Examiner have released a series of incredible stories into the obscure ownership of the biggest logging company in Canada – Paper Excellence. 

This builds on a groundbreaking investigation by Greenpeace Canada and our allies exposing Paper Excellence’s complex ownership structure and links to the notorious Sinar Mas Group, an Indonesia-based private corporation linked to extensive deforestation and social conflict.

While Paper Excellence maintains it is independent from the Sinar Mas Empire, CBC’s investigation concluded that the reality and the rhetoric often don’t align”. These revelations have sent shock waves across Canada and prompted politicians to call for hearings in the House of Commons.

A complex ownership structure in five provinces

Logging in Quebec
Logging in Quebec
© Markus Mauthe / Greenpeace

Paper Excellence now owns mills in half of Canada’s provinces: British Columbia, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Quebec and Saskatchewan. In the past year it has grown exponentially with the purchase of controversial and litigious logging company Resolute Forest Products. The sheer size of Paper Excellence’s operations now guarantee it will have an impact on forests for generations.

However, Paper Excellence’s complicated ownership structure presents a barrier to local communities, Indigenous Peoples, unions and environmentalists from holding them accountable for their actions.

Despite a multi-layered corporate structure with holding companies in numerous jurisdictions, our investigation’s findings provided strong evidence that the Sinar Mas Group controls Paper Excellence. This included family ties, overlapping management and lobbyist filings.

The analysis was based on a review of hundreds of publicly available corporate registry documents in Canada, Indonesia, France, Brazil, the United States, British Virgin Islands and other jurisdictions. Our evidence even included the official Sinar Mas letterhead used by Paper Excellence when the company purchased its first mill here.

A critical time for forests in Canada

Paper Excellence’s takeover of the logging industry comes at a critical time for forests across Canada. Loss of iconic wildlife like caribou, soaring emissions from unsustainable logging and failure to protect old growth have prompted some of the largest acts of civil disobedience in Canadian history

The situation is just as bad in the provinces where Paper Excellence now has a foothold. Over the past 20 years, old growth forests in British Columbia have been cut in half. In Quebec, urgently needed forest protections are stalled in the face of industry pressure. In Ontario, the government has shockingly exempted the logging industry from complying with the provincial endangered species act! 

At the same time, existing laws to protect wildlife and nature are weak and poorly enforced. In some cases, this reflects years of lobbying by the logging industry to keep them that way. 

Federal greenwash is not helping

You might expect our federal government would be following this situation closely and doing everything they can to protect forests for future generations.

But honestly it doesn’t really seem like it.

For example, we uncovered at the end of last year that while the government was gearing up to host a global nature summit in Montreal, its Ambassador to the European Union was lobbying against strict environmental requirements on forest products from countries like Canada. A letter from the Ambassador ignored the enormous impacts of logging on wildlife and claimed that essential traceability requirements would be too “burdensome” for multi-billion dollar industry giants (like Paper Excellence) to meet. 

Global Affairs isn’t the only department greenwashing the logging industry either. Natural Resources Canada still parrots industry talking points that all Canadian logging is sustainable. 

Boreal Forest in Canada
Boreal forest, Northern Ontario.

Calling for answers and action

The federal government needs to wake up. The public deserves answers and action. And what better time than today, International Day of Forests, to get them? Here are two ways to take action for forests today:

  1. Tweet for our forests and demand answers

The Canadian public has a right to know exactly who is profiting from all of this logging, the full impact on forests and what Paper Excellence’s plans are for the future. The government can make this happen. 

Let’s call on John Aldag MP, Chair of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Natural Resources and Minister of Industry, François-Philippe Champagne, to summon the CEO of Paper Excellence to testify before the House Committee.

  1. Ask for laws to protect forests and biodiversity

Paper Excellence’s takeover of the logging industry makes it more urgent than ever for the government to pass new legislation to protect forests and nature. Over 40,000 people have called on Minister of the Environment Steven Guilbeault to get this done.