Talks for a deal with environmentalists have broken off, but Resolute Forest Products Inc. says it remains committed to hammering out a plan to protect Canada's ecologically fragile boreal forest.
Right now, though, the Montreal-based newsprint, pulp and paper producer is busy protecting its own reputation.
Resolute is in a front line court battle to counter what it says are false and malicious claims by Greenpeace Canada.
Not that long ago, both Resolute and Greenpeace Canada were sitting at the same table with other environmental and industry players trying to work out a Canada-wide pact to set aside huge swaths of boreal forest under terms of the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement (CBFA).
Now, Resolute has filed a lawsuit in Ontario Superior Court seeking damages of $5-million, as well as punitive damages of $2-million, plus costs, against Greenpeace and two of its activists for an allegedly false and misleading report about the company's logging practices in Ontario and Quebec.
Resolute's actions, and Greenpeace's withdrawal several months ago from the agreement, underline how volatile and difficult relations remain between Canada's forestry sector and environmentalists, despite best efforts within the CBFA over the past three years to agree on a new era of collaboration over sustainable forestry practices.
In its suit, Resolute alleges that Greenpeace falsely attacked it for logging in off-limits areas in northwestern Ontario and parts of Quebec, as well as for having a poor record on its pay and pension practices and for marketing green products that are not truly green.
"Greenpeace is presently reviewing a Statement of Claim submitted by Resolute Forest Products' lawyers. We are disappointed that our efforts to protect Canada's forests have prompted this bullying tactic," said Richard Brooks, the forest campaign co-ordinator for Greenpeace Canada.
"Greenpeace is quite willing to defend our criticism of Resolute's forest practices. We will vigorously defend ourselves and Canada's forests."
None of the allegations have been proven in court.
"Resolute will continue to rigorously defend our reputation, the reputation of our employees and our business partners from inaccuracies and deceptive allegations by Greenpeace," said Resolute spokesman Seth Kursman.
Greenpeace withdrew from the agreement last December, claiming that Resolute was logging in protected areas; a second group, Vancouver-based Canopy, later also pulled out. (Although talks between Resolute and environmental groups have ceased, other companies are continuing discussions under the auspices of the CBFA.)
Earlier this year, Greenpeace backed away from the allegations after Resolute threatened a lawsuit.
Greenpeace recently produced its new allegations and Resolute took legal action.