The Future of Forestry

Source: Canada's Public Policy Forum

Heather Lynch

On Friday, March 27, the Forest Products Association of Canada and Canada's Public Policy Forum jointly hosted an innovative and collaborative panel at Ottawa's Museum of Nature, to discuss The Future of Forestry: Sustainable Solutions.

Dubbed 'a unique armchair discussion exploring the future of Canada's forests, ' the event pulled together experts from a wide range of sectors, including government, science and industry, academia, and First Nations. Regional, national and international contexts were represented.

David Mitchell, president and CEO of Canada's Public Policy Forum opened the event by reflecting on how far Canada has come since the 1990s 'war in the woods,' inviting participants to first recognize that progress is indeed possible, and noted that Canadian identity is intrinsically tied to the vast green spaces that make up the country.

Divided into two panel discussions, the first session focused on accountability and transparency in the forestry sector. Building on the recognition that the boundless availability of technology creates seemingly endless opportunities for measuring and assessing the performance of Canada's forests, this same technology can pose challenges for how that information is communicated. Dr. Wynet Smith, executive director of Global Forest Watch, noted that while there has been notable progress over the last two decades in how much data is accessible, there is still a need for data that isn't easily available. She also noted that much of the data we do have is demand-driven by Canadian values and an expectation of access to information that allows us to assess whether or not our forests are being sustainably managed.

Andre Morriseau, director of awards and communications for the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business noted the ample room that exists for First Nations and the forestry sector to collaborate to create sustainability. He also reflected on the fact that Aboriginal communities have significant and important knowledge 'locked' within them, and the focus needs to be on how to respectfully and effectively unlock this knowledge.

The second panel discussion switched gears to emphasize the global context, and how Canada can simultaneously streamline its operations, remain competitive and develop effective relationships. Panelists discussed the fact that in Canada, roughly 93% of forests are provincially-owned, and the unique context and challenges this presents. Dr. Ben Cashore of Yale University noted that much of what Canada has accomplished in forest practices and regulations has positioned it as a leader in terms of regulation and governance and that is has much to offer on a global scale in disseminating this information.

Dr. Janette Bulkan, a professor specializing in indigenous forestry at the University of British Columbia noted that the Forest Stewardship Council offers a forum for a multi-stakeholder process to work towards common end goals. Aran O'Carroll of the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement noted that many of the challenges facing the forestry sector are global and that collaboration and the pursuit of joint solutions is an approach with a proven track record of success that can be applied both domestically and internationally.

The forum closed with a keynote address by Anne Giardini, former president of Weyerhaeuser and currently Chancellor of Simon Fraser University entitled, 'building and sustaining trust.' Giardini discussed the importance of resiliency, patience, flexibility and adaptability in a work context, and underscored that a firm's decision to behave virtuously, helps ensure its profitability.