TORONTO— Unifor forestry members are urging the province to take immediate action in the efforts to re-start the Fort Frances pulp and paper mill, and protect the rights of the publicly-owned forest lands in the region.
“We’ve been working with the Town of Fort Frances and other key stakeholders since 2014 when the mill closed to explore new ownership and a re-starting of the mill,” said Stephen Boon, Unifor National Representative. “Re-starting this mill would see 600 direct jobs restored by next year which would be a relief for the town and the entire region. Ministers Rickford and Yakabuski and the province of Ontario must take the necessary steps to support this community.”
Fort Frances mill owners, Resolute Forest Products, has received millions of dollars from the province of Ontario yet has rejected every proposal for renewed mill operations and instead sold the mill property in July 2019 to a re-purposing company, Riversedge Developments.
Unifor shares the concerns of the people of Fort Frances over the poor outcomes experienced at some of Riversedge’s other former industrial properties, including the recent leaning toward a half-baked marijuana grow-op scheme rather than selling to companies interested in re-starting pulp and paper operations. It should be quite obvious that demolition or re-purposing the economic engine of a community should be a last resort, not the preferred option!
“Resolute’s recent sale agreement is so restrictive as to suggest any new owner would not be allowed to request wood supply from the Crossroute Forest, which is a pretty clear attempt by Resolute to consolidate control of publicly-owned forest and continue to divert millions of cubic metres of wood fibre away from Fort Frances and the Rainy River District,” said Boon. “ This community relies on forestry operations and the Government of Ontario must step up and use every tool they have at their disposal – time is running out and we need strong, decisive action to restore 600 well paying forestry jobs in Fort Frances.”
Unifor is the largest union in the private sector in Canada, representing more than 315,000 members, including 25,000 in the forestry sector.