Ontario: Indigenous resistance turns back mining assault on sovereignty

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Firm resistance by Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (KI) has forced the Ontario government to buy out mining leases, preventing another assault on Indigenous rights and lands

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Statement from the Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (KI) Land and Environment Unit, March 29, 2012

KI is calling for resumption of government to government talks in the month of June in the wake of the Ontario buyout of God’s Lake Resources mining claims and leases in the KI sacred landscape at Sherman Lake.

“The decision is bittersweet,” said Chief Donny Morris.  “KI has a sacred duty under KI Law to assert its jurisdiction, care for the land and protect and honour sacred landscapes and graves of our ancestors.  That is why we went to jail in the past and that is why we will defend our lands in the future.” he said.

“KI is pleased that Ontario has acted to protect the KI sacred landscape but disappointed that GLR was able to apparently unjustly enrich themselves at the hands of tax payers,” said Chief Morris.

KI had warned Ontario officials that they were repeating mistakes made when taxpayers paid $5 million to mining exploration company Platinex in 2008 to buy out the company’s claims and leases following a dispute with KI over unwanted drilling and mining exploration.

In that case, Platinex launched a $70 million lawsuit that blamed Ontario officials for a failed consultation process with the community that ultimately led to the jailing of the Chief and five other leaders (the KI 6).

In November 2011, KI broke off talks aimed at creating a unique joint panel tasked with developing creative solutions for KI’s jurisdictional issues with the province when Ontario officials could offer no assurances that GLR would not desecrate a KI sacred landscape with a proposed drill program.  With the GLR issue resolved those talks can now resume.

KI declared a moratorium on mining exploration, park creation and all other Ontario land dispositions in 2000.  The KI moratorium on Ontario land dispositions remains in effect until KI resolves outstanding land claims and jurisdictional issues with Ontario.

In 2011, KI proclaimed a Watershed Declaration to protect the Fawn River watershed and all the water that flow in and out of Big Trout Lake and created a new approach to consultation in KI Consultation Protocol.

The Anglican Church, the Ontario Federation and Labour, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, the NDP, Amnesty International and a number of environmental organizations had all rallied to support KI demand to protect the sacred landscape and stop the drilling.

“I want to acknowledge all supporters out there who helped us protect the sacred landscape and honour our ancestors,” said Chief Morris.


Update from the Toronto KI Support Committee, March 27, 2012

On March 29, Ontario announced that it would buy out God’s Lake Resources Inc. claims to KI territory for $3.5 million dollars.

A huge part of KI Homeland, over 23,000square kilometers, or over 2% of the total area of ‘Ontario’ is off-limits to mining until KI decides otherwise.

This historic victory is a result of KI Nation asserting sovereignty over its land, refusing to compromise or negotiate for anything less. In a time of austerity, back to work legislation, where too many communities feel like no victory is possible, KI is a beacon of inspiration.

The Ontario government (like much of Canada) encourages mining companies to stake claims on territories that do not belong to it. This forces nations like KI to waste a great deal time and energy fighting off projects rather than to build communities that reflect the sovereign aspirations of Indigenous people. Instead of compensating KI for the resources it wasted fighting off a mining company backed by the government, the Ontario government rewarded GLR $3.5 million.

That Ontario chose to do this by paying off GLR rather than ordering it off shows the unwillingness of the Ontario government to control the run-away greed of mining corporations in the province. The Ontario government gave $3.5million of public money to God’s Lake Resources while pushing ahead an austerity budget that cuts welfare, schools, childcare, housing and labour protections in the province. This is a disgrace.

This decision by the Ontario government to acquiesce to KI’s demands turns is the result of a 12 year old fight. In 2000, KI declared a moratorium on mining exploration, park creation and all other Ontario land dispositions until KI resolves outstanding land claims and jurisdictional issues with Ontario. Now that Ontario has begun to respect the moratorium, KI has invited Ontario to return to the table to respectfully negotiate outstanding issues.

This battle has been won by KI, but their fight is far from over. Parts of the KI watershed are still open to mining under Ontario law, even though KI Indigenous law sets the watershed off limits to industry forever. The community is in the process of defining the extent of their own Homeland, and making decisions about how to use and care for it.

In 2011, the community developed a Watershed Declaration and a Consultation protocol establishing the terms of any discussion of land use on KI Homeland. Instead of following the practices of the Ontario government or its Ministries, KI asserted its own ways. Through a massive organizing effort KI is now forcing Ontario to respect them.

In the last few weeks, KI had already established a presence on the areas threatened by God’s Lake Resources issuing YouTube statements to supporters. And over the last few months, allies in the Anglican Church, the Ontario Federation of Labour, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, Council of Canadians, Amnesty and environmental organizations were mobilized by KI to form a persuasive force to push Ontario back on to the negotiating table.

Separately, in January of 2011, a small Toronto based support network initiated by No One Is Illegal – Toronto was established to support KI’s efforts. Members of Christian Peacemaker Teams, (de)Occupy Toronto and other individual activists soon joined us. Actions we undertook include:

1. Establish a Social Media presence

We have maintained non-stop communication on KI issues on Facebook

2. Built a Base

Aboriginal Rights Working Group Bathurst, Bloor & Trinity-St. Paul’s United Churches, Immigration Legal Committee of the Law Union of Ontario, CUPE 3902, Faculty for Palestine in Toronto, Latin American and Caribbean Solidarity Network, Bathurst Street United Church, Toronto Stop the Cuts Network. CAIA, Christian Peacemaker Teams – Canada, Health for All, Labour For Palestine, No One is Illegal Toronto, Students Against Israeli Apartheid, The Collective @ the centre for women and trans people at UofT, Toronto New Socialist Group, Mining Injustice Solidarity Network, Food Not Bombs and the Toronto Climate Campaign signed on to support the Supporters statement for the Water Declaration.

For this we used a 12 minute documentary on KI by Allan Lissner linked here

3. Pressure Rick Bartolucci

We organized multiple phone-in and write-in campaigns targeting Minister Rick Bartolucci and the bureaucrats in Ministry of Mining and Northern Development. We also put up posters at every turn in and out of the Ministry’s offices: http://on.fb.me/H0KueX and kept a close watch on the Minister’s appearances making sure we were around to greet him.

4. Pressure God’s Lake Resources Inc.

We put up posters all around God’s Lake Resources offices demanding that they leave the KI Homeland.

3. Amplifying KI’s story.

We wrote the following articles:

4. Go public

In early March we organized a panel and rally for KI Leaders in Toronto. See details here

Now that Ontario returns to negotiating with KI we can rest. For now.

If Ontario chooses to disrespect KI’s lands, we will be ready.