Lumberjacks of Canada
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Lumberjacks of Canada

By Michel Arseneault
Dolbeau-Mistassini, Quebec

It is 4am, only a little belated for break fast.

African immigrants comprise the bulk of the region’s forestry employees

In a fiercely-lit canteen, dozens of forestry employees in oilskin jackets are eating eggs and ham. Its a normal work-camp meal in northern Canada. Yet these employees are not typical – most hail from Africa.

The loggers have employment with a forestry management organization, Amenagement Myr, that is located in a city called Dolbeau-Mistassini, 300km (186 kilometers) north-west of Quebec City.

The business has actually employed some locals, but none are around. They’ve all remaining the camp to blow a lengthy week-end with their people in nearby towns and villages.

The Africans just who work right here never take weekends off. Montreal, in which obtained remaining wives and kids behind, is not a weekend destination. Operating there takes practically seven hours.

Raymond Bertrand Neabo, 28, struggled to obtain a French lender in Yaounde, the main city of Cameroon, after graduating from institution here. After going to Canada in 2006, he found that prospective companies considered their company administration degree useless. So he started an additional degree from scrape.

For him, logging is a well-paying summertime task that features, but forced him to go out of his pregnant spouse behind in Montreal. “It’s very hard work, ” he stated in French. “You can’t get used to it. It really is like cold temperatures.”

‘Pay to master’

Employees make use of brush blades and power saws that look like oversized weed-whackers but roar like motorcycles, to “slim” the woodland. What this means is the removal of small deciduous trees, usually birch, to allow commercially important spruce and fir woods to thrive.

Life is difficult out of the house, plus some have homesick

Its challenging work many for the workers would never have inked home. Numerous speak a polished French that conveys their urban, middle-class backgrounds.

Amenagement Myr in the beginning hired a man from Ivory Coast when you look at the late 1990s. The word quickly distribute in the African neighborhood that there was cash to-be made in the bush.

Now, most of the camp’s 90 workers are African-born. Another local forest administration company, Foresterie DLM, also mostly hires African immigrants.

After moving to Montreal, Thomas Shase, a 25-year-old Nigerian, first started in telemarketing, phoning resentful people who often informed him to “go returning to Africa”.

He then found out about the forestry job. “It is hard, my brother, but it is a lot better than Montreal, ” he stated. “The woodland is peaceful. You’re able to believe. Nevertheless best part could be the cash.”

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Amenagement Myr, who works under agreement for AbitibiBowater Inc, among the biggest pulp and paper organizations on the planet, will pay all of them $500 (US$472, £266) per hectare “thinned”. Which means skilled brush blades make decent money if they clear three to four hectares a week. Beginners, but don’t earn decent money.

“You pay to learn, ” admits Mario Richard, which owns and runs Amenagement Myr.

Some residents have accused him of luring Africans to operate as cheap labour.

“I pay every person similar, ” he states. “Whether you’re black or white, green or yellow tends to make no difference in my opinion as long as you may do the job.”

Mr Richard feels that his African employees have significantly more endurance, noting that the overwhelming majority tough it out before end of this season.


By 5am, the employees pile into a school coach that lumps along pot-holed forest roadways and log bridges.

They usually have loaded sandwiches, fruit and pre-packaged desserts. But there is however a cap on everything. The organization says it is crucial that no uneaten food be thrown out for concern about attracting black bears.

The job is challenging

What loggers most fear are snakes. The land is covered in “slash”, the undesired branches, tops and stumps that have been removed during clear-cut logging businesses significantly more than a decade ago. The garter snakes that live there are harmless, but workers continue to be watchful.

Mosquitoes are the real problem. The loggers douse themselves with a robust insect repellent expected to protect all of them for six hours, however they sweat it well in an hour.