SAVING THE REGION OF ONTARIO NORTH GROUP
Kapuskasing is now part of native land
Moose Cree First Nation
The Timmins Times / Sun Media
³We are the Moose Cree People, the original people of this landŠ²
With those words, Chief Patricia Faries-Akiwenzie made a declaration
Thursday that outlined nearly 6 million hectares of land as belonging
to the Moose Cree First Nation.
The parcel of land stretches from north of Moosonee to an area near the
Chapleau Crown Game Preserve. It does not include Timmins, but it does
include Kapuskasing, Mattice, Val Rita and Moonbeam.
Before a gathering of Timmins media representatives, Faries-Akiwenzie
said, ³the time has come² to let everyone know who the owners of the
³When our forefathers signed the treaty, we made it clear we were not
giving up our land,² said Faries-Akiwenzie.
The chief, who is also a lawyer with a practice in Moose Factory,
We are not opposed to development but you must get our consent prior to
any development occurring within our homeland.
She said the intent of the declaration is not to create conflict, but
instead foster a new climate of cooperation since the land and her
people are being faced with so many new challenges involving mining,
forestry, hydro-electric developments and even wind energy.
³We are saying you need our consent. We need to be a part of the whole
development aspect,² said the chief.
Faries-Akiwenzie says the declaration is not in response to any urgent
matter or development. She says the project to define the traditional
land has been underway for several years and has involved extensive
research with families and elders who have lived on the land.
She adds the declaration is not involved with the announcement last week by
Premier Dalton McGuinty that northern lands need to be protected.
³We were not involved in the premier¹s plan to declare any of it
protected,² Faries-Akiwenzie told reporters.
This is one of the approaches Ontario has always had in the way they
deal with First Nations. They don¹t involve us in their planning or
anything like that.²
She adds however, now that the declaration has been made, northern
communities are being put on notice that from this point forward, the
Moose Cree First Nation will be protecting it¹s interests.
³The Moose Cree are a sovereign nation and we will control our own
Tel. 705 268-6252 Ext. 27
Fax 705 268-2255
Check Our Blog http://www.timminstimes.blogspot.com/
The Ryerson Free Press
Monday, July 7, 2008
KI6 and Bob Lovelace "Fully Vindicated
The leaders of Ardoch Algonquin First Nation and Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (KI) have won an appeal to the Ontario Court of Appeal in regards to their recent jail sentences.
Donny Morris, Chief of KI, Bob Lovelace, retired Chief of Ardoch and their legal counsel Chris Reid, have just circulated a press release announcing the victory.
Morris, Lovelace and five other leaders from KI were sentenced to six months in jail earlier this year. In similar cases, all were put there for disobeying court orders that allowed for prospecting on traditional lands. Morris chose to obey Algonquin law to protect the land around Ardoch. The KI6 made a similar decision.
The press release said;
"In both cases, Ontario's Minister of Aboriginal Affairs, Michael Bryant, instructed Ontario's lawyers to support the mining companies in seeking the harshest possible punishment for our "disobedience" of Ontario's laws. The government made it clear at every step of the legal proceedings that their only priority is to support the 19th century Mining Act which states that mining is always the best use of land, and any peaceful protesters who oppose mining should expect jail and crippling fines."
While the seven leaders were released on May 28, it was only today that the reasons that their release was made known. The Court had this to say:
"Where a requested injunction is intended to create ‘a protest-free zone' for contentious private activity that affects asserted aboriginal or treaty rights, the court must be very careful to ensure that, in the context of the dispute before it, the Crown has fully and faithfully discharged its duty to consult with the affected First Nations. The court must further be satisfied that every effort has been exhausted to obtain a negotiated or legislated solution to the dispute before it. Good faith on both sides is required in this process"
At the heart of this issue is Ontario's colonial approach to First Nations' rights over traditional land. While these rights are constitutionally allowed, they are in direct opposition to the Mining Act, which allows prospectors onto any land, regardless of ‘ownership', as long as it has the approval of the Provincial government.
Jailing these leaders was an embarrassment to the province of Ontario. With Steven Truscott being awarded $6.5 million for the wrongful conviction that stole his youth, Ontarians are again reminded that our justice system needs to be changed if justice is indeed going to be served. And, nearly 50 years after one innocent man's journey for justice has finished, a very different group of seven have been vindicated for another wrongful conviction.
When will the Government of Ontario learn?
Link: YouTube coverage of the National Day of Action in Toronto
Letter to the Legislators of Ontario
May 11, 2008
I am writing this letter to you from the Central East Correctional Centre in Lindsay, Ontario. I have been imprisoned here during the last three months for contempt of court because I said I cannot obey an injunction which conflicts with my duty under Algonquin law to protect our land.
I am writing because I believe you are honest men and women who work in the best interests of your constituents and for the betterment of Ontario. Is it to your intelligence and compassion that this letter is addressed. What I write may shock and anger you. It will certainly cause embarrassment. My hope is that what you read here will engender in you the same commitment to justice that I have felt within these prison walls and throughout my life.
On February 15th of this year, I was sentenced to six months in prison and fined $25,000. Co-Chief Paula Sherman was also fined $15,000. She is a single mother and a grandmother and the sole supporter for three dependents. She cannot and will not pay the fine and will have to report to jail on May 15 to serve a 90 day prison sentence. Our offence was declaring our intention to peacefully protect our homeland after 30,000 acres had been staked for uranium exploration. The staking had been done without our knowledge or consent and the claims were registered by Ontario's Ministry of Mines without notification. Extensive deep core drilling was planned for last summer without consultation or accommodation.
In June of last year, the Council of the Ardoch Algonquin First Nation requested the exploration company remove their personnel and equipment. When they complied, we secured the area with the help of our non-Algonquin neighbours. In July, the company, Frontenac Ventures Corporation, sued us for $77 million, and in August obtained an injunction ordering unfettered access to our lands. Since their still had not been any consultation, as required by Supreme Court decisions, we refused to remove the security barrier, and found ourselves convicted of "contempt" by your court.
Although the context behind my imprisonment is useful, this letter is not about mining or the out-dated Ontario Mining Act. There is already much public discussion now going on about toxic mining and the need to protect citizens' rights. This letter as well is not about Aboriginal rights or the protection of our homeland, although our Indigenous rights and responsibilities contribute to the discourse. This letter is a case against colonialism, the dysfunctional heritage that we share; the colonialism that informs every aspect of our current relationship and will undo our security and undermine the future for all citizens in this province. Democracy and colonialism can not walk hand-in-hand for long before the disparity in justice, economic opportunities and morality so sickens human spirits that we will all live without hope of becoming the nations we wish to be.
For many years in my intellectual life I tried to understand why, as Indigenous people, we were destined to suffer under the oppression of colonialism. I wanted to know if some natural law at the beginning of time had proclaimed it so, or if it were an accident of conditioning, or if it were essential to social order that made such suffering a necessity. I believed that if I could only know how it had come to be then I would be satisfied with the justification, or understand how you fix the mechanics.
As the years have carved away my curiosity, I have at last concluded that it does not matter how colonialism came to be or who is at fault. I do not care if I ever know how colonialism took root in this world. Now, I just want to be free of it. I want to know that succeeding generations of First Nations children will not be looked upon as inferior, that their birthright and home will not be stolen, that they will have the advantage of dreaming their own dreams and following their own visions. And as much as I want my own children to be free, I want your children not to suffer the moral uncertainty that comes with living well because others are oppressed.
You are legislators. You have the responsibility for writing the laws and policies that frame colonialism and give it social and political structure in Ontario. Unwriting colonialism is not a political process. One party or coalition can not do it alone. Ending legal colonialism is not for partisans. It requires a consensus among law makers who regard justice and humanity above competition for popularity. Those of you who will work for just change will believe in the rightness of your laws as strongly as I believe in the rightness of Algonquin law. When you decide to erase colonialism from your laws you will be risking your future as much as I have risked mine. They are your laws that embody colonial oppression of Aboriginal people and although we can offer guidance, it will be you as legislators who will choose to be, or choose not to be, the burden of innocent generations of come.
The present and accepted course of de-colonization has failed. It has failed both in letter and in spirit. We are living an illusion that Canada and the Provinces no longer oppress First Nations. Nothing in this lie could be further from the truth. If it was so, when did this reversal take place? Was it with Confederation? No - Confederation marked the transition from an ambivalent British Crown to a purposeful extermination of everything Indian. Was it during the Canadian centre of repressive laws that alienated Aboriginal people from their lands and customs? No. Did revisions of the federal Indian Act reverse the national strategy of "taking the Indian out of the Indian child" or save thousands of Indian children from the "sixties scoop"? No.
Have decisions of the Supreme Course recognized original jurisdiction or simply redefined domination in more tolerable terms? Did the Royal Commission on Aboriginal People and hundreds of other studies inform the Nation and change public attitudes? No. Did patriating the Constitution in 1982 succeed in defining the rights and jurisdiction of Aboriginal Nations as it did for the Federal and Provincial governments? No! Please, honestly, ask yourselves, when such a historical turn around occurred and when substantial changes in legislation were written which would have allowed the transition to take place.
Freedom does not come in increments. Colonialism will not give way through wishful thinking or half-measures. In the past, politicians, clergy and intellectuals argued that Aboriginal people were not ready for "civilization" and needed the guiding hand of the colonizer. This ideology is nothing more than self-serving paternalism. Freedom is not something that Aboriginal people should have to earn. If freedom were to be bought, then we have paid for it a thousand fold. Freedom comes when the gate is opened wide or broken down. If there is anyone who has not been ready for Aboriginal people to take their rightful place in Canada, it is you, the colonizer. Until you actively and explicitly make colonialism illegal then it will always be you who are not ready.
The forces that guard colonialism are large. The federal and provincial governments employ hundreds of lawyers, bureaucrats and academics to discredit Aboriginal claims and put Aboriginal people in their place. They work on land claims, court cases and public policy in an effort to limit the Crown's obligations and liability to Aboriginal people. When have Ontario lawyers defended an Aboriginal right or vigorously advanced Aboriginal claims? They just don't do that.
Colonialism will remain firmly entrenched as long as we work in an adversarial system in which communities that have been undermined socially, economically and politically for over two centuries must play by their opponents' rules on a field with a precipitous incline. I have watched as a generation of great minds have been squandered on both sides of this rivalry because intransigent bureaucrats and partisan politicians have been afraid to let "the thin edge of the wedge" change public policy and institutionalize just treatment of Aboriginal citizens. It is not for want of informed and competent negotiators that Canada and Ontario have a slew of unsettled claims and associated conflicts; rather it is the law makers' lack of political will, fairness and honesty in putting an end to the immoral advantage of colonialism.
Let me give you a clear and recent example of how Aboriginal people experience negotiations. In October of last year, Judge Cunningham of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, who presides in the suit brought by Frontenac Ventures against my community, suspended the hearing for twelve weeks in an effort to get all the parties talking. Ontario, Frontenac Ventures and the two First Nations agreed to a prioritized list of issues and to jointly choose a mediator. At that point, we removed our security barrier and permitted Frontenac Ventures to carry out unobtrusive survey work.
When the discussions began, the corporation did not attend or send a representative. Instead they installed security guards at the site.
Ontario's representatives consistently refused to discuss the issues outlined in the predetermined agenda which included as the first item, Ontario's legal responsibility to consult with First Nations communities before development of a resource begins. Ontario negotiators rejected out of hand three comprehensive settlement proposals put forward by Ardoch. Ontario negotiators demanded that we inventory our "values" for the staked land, but refused to accept the description of these "values" when expressed in cultural context or with their meanings in Anishnabemowin, our language.
When it was apparent that time was running out in the 12 week process, the lead Ontario negotiator, who had been a former Deputy Minister of Northern Development and Mines, conceded that Ontario's duty to consult should be met. He agreed with Ardoch that a broad range of possible outcomes should be considered. He also agreed that the consultation process could conclude with an end to uranium exploration. Ardoch had favoured such an open consultation from the beginning of negotiations. Having arrived at an agreement that a plan of "appropriate consultation" would be submitted to Judge Cunningham we proceeded to discuss the framework for the consultation process.
A week later, after substantial collaboration on the framework, Ontario's lead negotiator advised us that there had never been an intention to halt exploration and that exploratory drilling would be taking place during the proposed consultation process. We could either agree or face the court and charges of contempt.
This experience seems to be universal across the country. It has not changed much since the starvation tactics used by Sir John A. Macdonald in negotiating the early numbered treaties. While Aboriginal people cling to the hope that the Crown administrators will be merciful and accept some limited fashion of constitutionally protected rights, bureaucrats and their Ministerial masters do everything in their power to extinguish those rights and uphold the colonial state.
Legislators and governments are not solely responsible for maintaining the immoral practice of colonialism. Even the Supreme Court of Canada, often praised for its progressive decisions on Aboriginal rights, is a principle defender of the sovereign privilege of domination. Supreme Court decisions, while recognizing the historical and legal validity of Aboriginal rights, limit the scope and practice of those rights in favour of "larger" Canadian interests. An analogy of the dilemma is listening to the stories of an abused child in an Indian residential school, patting her on the head and then telling her not to disobey the priest. Such is the sanctimonious hypocrisy of your highest court. These same courts permit Canada's governments to ponder for years on the policy implications reflecting these half-hearted concessions, rendering the entire legal process of protecting Aboriginal rights an exercise in "too little, too late".
Ontario has been consistently guilty of regarding Aboriginal rights as an inconvenient demand on the moral character of a tolerant society. But Aboriginal rights are your laws, not ours. They originate in English law as the doctrine of "continuity" and find substance in such documents as the Royal Proclamation of 1763. Section 35 rights in the Canadian Constitution are an attempt to address the fundamental denial of the existing laws of Aboriginal Nations and to bring into sovereign Canada a sense of Aboriginal belonging. But we have had our own laws and governance and the Crown, through the doctrine of "continuity" has never had the right to overrule them.
Our laws do not involve a concept of "rights". In our cultures, mutual respect and benefit are understood as imperatives for survival. Aboriginal cultures regard law as a complex set of responsibilities to the land and in human relations. The emphasis is on protecting sustainability and avoiding conflict. When Europeans first came to settle in the Ottawa valley in 1800, this is what our ancestors asked of them: to share the land and get along. Through 150 years of French and 100 years of English contact, the doctrine of "continuity" was practiced. We must be clear that recent constitutional commitments in section 35 to "recognize and affirm" Aboriginal and treaty rights are Canadian law. Our leaders at the time asked for much more.
The disparity between your laws and ours' represents the gap between lip service and Aboriginal peoples' ambition to restore our homelands and cultures. Without a sense of moral clarity and comprehensive entitlements, section 35 of your Constitution is almost meaningless. It gives you as legislators no standard or instruction upon which to write anti-colonial legislation. As such, it gives Canadian courts nothing with which to reconcile the past and even less with which to arbitrate the future. Courts will continue to define Aboriginal rights as subservient and Aboriginal title as third class.
As a colonized people we must accept a share of the responsibility for our condition. Like you, we have internalized colonialism. We have allowed it to inform the way we see the world and ourselves. Too often we have turned to the colonizing governments for support. Too often we expect you to solve out problems or blame you for our inadequacies. Too often we are satisfied with handouts rather than partnerships or ownership. We have come to accept colonial labels such as "status" and "non-status" as definitions of who we are. We let these labels divide our families and communities.
Our leaders have accepted foreign forms of governance which undermine our unity and foster corruption. We have come to accept that blood quantum, shades of skin colour and even levels of education determine our Indianess. Far too often we have given up, given in to self-hate, self-abuse and the abuse of others. Like you, we have to confront colonialism on our own terms, for it is just as immoral to accept victimization as it is to benefit from oppression.
Ontario's education system is a primary instrument in ensuring that colonialism remains unchallenged. Many Ontarians know nothing of how generations of Aboriginal children were victimized by church and state. Ontarians posses only a vague understanding of how land was overrun by settlement in the 19th century and Aboriginal people were forced to sign unconscionable treaties and land sales in return for modest protection. As far as understanding the evolution of colonial laws, almost all citizens are ignorant.
Even the real suffering of their own immigrant ancestors as slaves, indentured servants, child labour and cannon fodder have been sanitized for the popular glorification of Ontario's history. Many of these immigrants were escaping colonialism in their own homelands, just as refugees today come to Canada to find a better life. But they acquire no real history about themselves and at best only an "honourable mention" of Aboriginal realities. Without an honest and fully informed education system, your job of challenging and changing colonial laws is as difficult as our in changing the attitudes of ignorant neighbours.
Almost all of you have either publicly or privately condemned the Aboriginal people who protest and obstruct economic and civic activity. At best you have expressed complacent tolerance and an admission that Aboriginal dissatisfaction may have some merit. Ontario's civility rests on its affluence, not on its moral intelligence or character. It is this artificial civility that Aboriginal protestors challenge. Each time a road is blocked, exploration for minerals is halted, or forestry is interrupted, Aboriginal activists are raising the prickly question of Ontario's morality.
Each time a protest forces a political "spin" to be re-spun, law makers are confronted with the ineptitude of their own professional history. You may not like the politics of confrontation but I would rather see Shawn Brant block the 401 than Ovide Mercredi begging at the gates of Meech Lake, or Phil Fontaine writing Steven Harper's apology for the abuse of residential schools.
The affluence of Ontario has been acquired from the sacrifice of our ancestors' health and the wealth of our homelands. If immobilizing the power of that affluence is the only way to expose the evil of colonization then you need to brace yourselves. Aboriginal people and our thoughtful neighbours are sick and tired of colonialism. People of all races who hunger for justice, who understand the sacredness of creation and the folly of greed will find expression in tearing down colonialism. Aboriginal protests are not so much about past grievances. They are about the effects of present dispossession. Aboriginal activism is about changing the course of the future.
During the last week of May, Aboriginal people across Canada will be preparing for the National Day of Action on May 29th. Many people will come to Queen's Park. They are coming to talk to you. Throughout that week you will have the opportunity to listen to Aboriginal people and their friends express their fears and aspirations for the future. You will also hear their complaints. If you are wise you will listen. If you are as courageous as they are, you will allow what you hear to inspire your actions. If you are thankful for the Creator's gift of life, you will extend your hands in peace and friendship. It is up to you if you choose a partnership with Aboriginal Nations to begin the arduous task of rewriting Ontario's laws to exclude colonial principles. But if you choose to do nothing, or to condemn us, then please do not make excuses or false promises.
In the days leading up to May 29th, the media will extol the Canadian virtue of tolerance. In the days following, the media will sensationalize the "criminality" of Aboriginal defiance. You will see large pictures of masked warriors but little honest context. As you look with trepidation into the masked faces remember that those of us who wear no masks have been faceless as well, all of our lives. The real news will be in the conversations that you will have in the midst of demonstrations and at the edge of the barricades.
As much as I would like to be with you and my brothers and sisters at Queen's Park at the end of May, I will be here in prison. Throughout my life, I have advocated the path of non-violence as the only means of restoring our cultural integrity and our belonging within creation.
Freedom, at last, is a state of spirit. Even within the walls of this cell, my spirit can heal and grow and under the burden of oppression, all of our spirits can rise up. My spirit, like a seed, can wait throughout the long winter and come to life again when there is room to grow. Non-violence does not mean timidity. Those of us who have chosen a life of non-violence vigorously fight against the oppression and injustice that is sustained by violence. Colonialism, the laws that uphold it, the police actions that take down barricades and disrupt peaceful protests, are violence. Freedom flows around violence like water in a stream flows around a fallen log. Freedom is beautiful like the colours of the earth. Violence is ugly. My spirit will be with all of you at the end of May in peace and friendship.
My immediate thoughts are with my community and the threat of extensive deep core drilling. There is also the humiliation that Ontario is unwilling to allow our community into the decision-making process before further encroachment occurs. And there is the constant anxiety of what an open pit uranium mine will do to our land, our health and the health of our neighbours down stream. My heart aches in the memories of fishing along that river; the blueberry picking on the ridges and the winter solitudes of Arty's trapline. For two hundred years, colonists have been taking out land. I wonder every day when it will stop.
Because I do not have that answer I will begin a fast on May 16 and I will fast until I have an answer. I will not be fasting as a political statement or to extricate some concession from Ontario. In our culture we fast to purify our bodies and free our spirits. We fast in anticipation of a vision of things to come and to prepare ourselves to accept a great challenge. If my fast over the next few weeks brings attention to the defense of our community I will welcome the growing interest. I will also be praying hard for the protection of Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug and all of the communities struggling to survive. If in some small way my fast contributes to the non-violent struggle against Canadian colonialism, then all the better. I have no expectation of the Premier or his Ministers. The gun is to our head not his. I will pray that their hearts and minds become clear and that we will meet soon to work together to find solutions to the mess we are in.
When I began this letter I wrote that you might be shocked, angered and certainly embarrassed. If reading my thoughts made you uncomfortable, I am not sorry. It was my intent to shake you out of your complacency and indifference. Aboriginal people do not want your platitudes. We want change. We want an end to colonialism. We want legislation that protects our rights and recognizes our original jurisdiction. What you did yesterday in the name of justice for Aboriginal people is not enough. No matter what happens now, we will walk tomorrow's road together; you must ask yourself how you have that journey to be.
In the spirit of Peace and Friendship, mutual respect and benefit, I wish you to be well in your work, your play and your dreams.
Ardoch Algonquin First Nation
Why We Are In Jail
Posted by NetNewsLedger.com
To Our Allies, Friends and Supporters
From the Chief and Council of KI:
We have been in jail since March 17. This is a small note to our friends and supporters to explain why we are still in jail and why we may be in jail for several more months.
First of all, we want to thank all of you for your support and encouragement. You have given added strength to a strong community under siege. We especially want to thank our brothers and sisters from Muskrat Dam, Bearskin Lake, Wawakapeewin, Wapekaka, and Kingfisher Lake First Nations, as well as Nishnawbe-Aski Nation, who have supported KI and our allies, the Ardoch Algonquin First Nation, by suspending lands and resources negotiations with Ontario.
Contempt of Court and Sentencing
On October 25, 2007 KI announced that we could no longer afford to participate in court proceedings in the Platinex dispute, and then we walked away from the court. After 18 months of litigation and negotiations, legal options had been exhausted and our community was virtually bankrupt. Our position had not changed: KI will not support any exploratory drilling by Platinex and we will not negotiate with Platinex, despite being ordered by the court to do so. Our priority is the protection of our land, not money.
After KI walked out of court, Mr. Justice Smith issued an order which prohibits our members and supporters from interfering with or obstructing Platinex as they conduct exploratory drilling within KI's traditional territory. When KI responded to the October 25 order by publicly announcing that Platinex would not be welcome in KI's traditional territory, Platinex brought a motion for civil contempt of court.
On November 12, 2007 we retained Chris Reid as our lawyer. We have given Chris very clear instructions not to appeal any orders or defend against contempt of court proceedings. Our dispute with Ontario will not be resolved through the courts - it must be resolved through government-to-government negotiations between KI and Ontario.
On December 7, Platinex's contempt motion was heard by Mr. Justice Smith in Thunder Bay. We offered no defence to the contempt of court motion. We told the court that we would not obey the October 25 order and would not engage in any further negotiations with Platinex. We then were found in contempt of court. Contrary to what Minister Bryant has been saying in the media. Ontario did not support KI in any way.
On virtually every issue they support Platinex.
On March 17, we were sentenced to six months in prison for contempt of court. This was expected since Robert Lovelace, former Chief of the Ardoch Algonquin FN, had received a six month sentence in a very similar case on February 15, 2008. Again, contrary to what Minister Bryant has been saying in the media, Ontario did not support KI on the sentencing issue. Bryant's lawyers asked the court to severely punish us for our "disobedience".
Although our focus is no longer on the courts, a process to appeal the sentences has begun. Since it could take many months before the appeal will be heard we will also be bringing a motion in the Court of Appeal to have the sentences suspended pending the hearing of the appeal. The motion will also ask that all prisoners be released unconditionally and immediately. Our lawyer has asked lawyers for Ontario whether they have instructions from Mr. Bryant to support a motion for our immediate and unconditional release. Ontario's lawyers have not yet responded.
After We Are Released
Both KI and Ardoch remain committed to the proposal which we made in January for a Joint Panel to examine the causes of these disputes and make recommendations for preventing similar disputes in the future. Although Mr. Bryant has not yet responded to the proposal, both communities have told him that we are still prepared to work with Ontario to set up the Joint Panel, as soon as all of the prisoners are released from jail and a moratorium on mining and exploration in the disputed territories is implemented.
KI's Position on Legal Issues
Although we say that Ontario failed in its duty to consult with us before giving Platinex permission to explore for minerals on our land, we do not expect to achieve our goal of protecting our lands through the courts. We learned the hard way that the courts are not always the way for First Nations to get justice.
To encourage mining and exploration, Ontario's Mining Act is based on a "free entry" system, which means that all Crown lands, including those subject to Aboriginal title claims, are open for staking, exploration and mining without any consultation or permitting required. Anyone with a prospector's license may stake claims and prospect for minerals on any Crown land. Once a claim has been staked the Mining Recorder "shall" record the claims. There is no opportunity or requirement for consultations with affected First Nation communities. Once a claim is recorded, the prospector can conduct exploratory drilling without any more permits being required.
It is also important to know that in the 2004 Haida case, the Supreme Court made it clear that First Nations which have asserted rights claims or land claims, but not have not yet proven their claims, must be consulted and accommodated, but they cannot "veto" development on disputed land. Consultations and accommodation can include measures to mitigate the impacts of the project and provide some compensation for the affected communities, but they must lead towards implementation of the project. KI spent more than 18 months and $700,000 trying to break out of this legal box only to find ourselves faced with an injunction which permits drilling by Platinex and forbids us from obstructing Platinex.
The only way to achieve what KI and Ardoch believe is a fair and just solution is through negotiations between Ontario and the First Nations. Negotiations could lead to land use plans which withdraw sensitive lands from mineral staking and mining. That's why we ask that our supporters focus on the need for political action to resolve these disputes, not the courts.
We want to get out of jail and go back to our families, but please remember why we are here. We need Ontario to agree that Platinex will not be allowed to drill on our territory, and to work with us to ensure that disputes like this one do not happened again. If we have to remain in jail for five more months, or even five years, so be it.
The Toronto Star
April 5, 2008 Saturday
Ont government fails to reconcile differences
The McGuinty government has repeatedly slammed the door on First
Nations people trying to establish their rights to negotiate
development in their territories. This has created a confrontational
situation that now threatens to throw mining and logging in the
province into limbo.
It didn't have to be this way, says Doreen Davies, chief of the Shabot
Obaadjiwan First Nation in Eastern Ontario. The Shabot and the
neighbouring Ardoch First Nations have always been ready to negotiate,
she says, and with the province refusing to sit down with them, the
only option left lies in legal action.
An appeal is underway against the jailing of Robert Lovelace, a Queen's
University lecturer and an Ardoch nation member sentenced to six months
in jail and fined $25,000 for refusing to halt attempts to block
drilling for uranium on lands claimed by the two Indian nations.
The appeal lawyer, Michael Swindon, says he will argue that the Ontario
Appeal Court should follow a B.C. Supreme Court decision delivered last
summer that, if followed, would make Ontario's Forestry and Mining Acts
inoperable everywhere an Indian land claim exists.
The B.C. decision, if adopted, says it is no longer necessary for
aboriginal people to prove title to land in order to get control of
When the Constitution was patriated in 1982, a section was added
declaring that all aboriginal rights - not just title - were to be
recognized and honoured.
This means, the B.C. court said, that hunting and fishing rights are
enough to give First Nations control over their territories. They don't
have to prove title.
And if they establish such rights, provincial legislation no longer
applies in their territories; only the federal government has
jurisdiction to deal with any issues raised within their lands. In
effect, provincial legislation goes out the window anywhere there is a
Swindon says he will argue in the Lovelace appeal that the Ontario
Supreme Court had no constitutional jurisdiction to sentence Lovelace,
because it didn't take the B.C. decision into consideration.
The appeal will also bear on the sentencing three weeks ago of six
natives from the Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninugug (KI) First Nation, also
jailed for six months, for blocking drilling by Platinex Inc., about
600 kilometres north of Thunder Bay.
The jailings follow on obligations and commitments that Queen's Park
failed to honour. During the 2003 election, Premier Dalton McGuinty
promised there would be no industrial development in the northern
boreal until a comprehensive land-use plan was in place. There still is
no such plan . The province is allowing development to push into the
northern boreal without acknowledging that Indians have full rights to
negotiate how development occurs within their territories. Meanwhile,
it is turning a blind eye as Indians are jailed for protesting.
In Eastern Ontario, the Ardoch and Shabot First Nations are protesting
because the province failed to follow a Supreme Court of Canada
decision requiring Ontario to negotiate with First Nations before
exploration proceeded on their territories.
Again, the province is turning a blind eye to the jailing of Lovelace,
who blocked attempts by Frontenac Ventures Corp. to proceed with
drilling in the absence of such negotiations.
In the B.C. case, Justice D. H. Vickers said allowing logging would be
an expropriation of Tsilhqot'in rights, and the province had no
constitutional authority to do this. Accordingly, he said, the
provisions of the B.C. Forest Act did not apply to Tsilhqot'in
territory. Vickers noted his decision could have serious implications
for B.C.'s forestry industry, because so many areas are subject to
Indian land claims.
Nevertheless, he quoted with approval an academic report that said:
"In reality, it appears that the province has been violating aboriginal
title in an unconstitutional and therefore illegal fashion ever since
it joined Canada in 1871. What is truly disturbing is not that the
province can no longer do so, but that it has been able to get away
with it for so many years."
So, Ontario has two choices. It can continue to play hardball, or it
can call a halt to exploration in both territories while it seeks to
reconcile differences. The danger it faces is that if it doesn't opt
for reconciliation, it may lose everything in court.
Cameron Smith can be reached at
camsmith @ kingston.net
It's all Harper's fault
Fri, December 1, 2006
By SID RYAN
While the Harper government was busy in the House of Commons rushing through recognition of Quebecers as a nation, its representatives at the United Nations in New York were busy voting against the extension of human rights to indigenous peoples in Canada and around the world.
The Harper government has disgraced itself again on the world stage by voting to delay approval of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Over the past two decades, Canada has provided leadership and stewardship for this historic document that recognizes the rights of the world's 370 million indigenous peoples.
But not anymore. It's not just another example of the Conservatives embarrassing Canada at the world forum.
It's another kick at First Nations -- an integral part of Canada that Prime Minister Stephen Harper just doesn't get.
The declaration is aimed at improving the standard of living of indigenous people and recognizing their right to self-determination, giving them the right to live within their own customs and culture and to preserve it through education delivered in their own languages. It would also recognize the rights of indigenous peoples to land claims and resources and allow them to oppose military use of and incursions upon traditional lands.
Harper's Conservatives have undermined two decades of work by previous Canadian governments. They joined forces with Russia, Australia, New Zealand and the United States to stall approval at the crucial UN committee on social, humanitarian and cultural matters.
To have Canada even mentioned in the same sentence as Russia, Australia or the U.S. on the question of indigenous rights is in itself a testament to how far we have fallen in the eyes of the world.
"This is terribly disappointing for a country that has a strong record of defending human rights," said Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, chairperson for the UN permanent forum on indigenous issues.
Harper's disregard for indigenous people is not confined to the international arena. Earlier this year he reneged on the Kelowna Accord, another historic document, that promised to spend $5 billion on aboriginal housing, health care and education.
As a result, Canada's aboriginal children will continue to live in housing on reserves where Statistics Canada identified 54% of the homes as being in substandard condition.
Boil water orders will still be the order of the day in more than 100 aboriginal communities across Canada at risk of disease and infections.
Aboriginal women between ages 25 and 44 will remain five times more likely to suffer a violent death than other Canadian women in the same age group.
All of this is on top of the health problems experienced by aboriginal communities, everything from massive increases in TB among children and AIDS running rampant with a 500% increase in the past 20 years.
The Harper government has made a conscious decision to distance itself from Canada's aboriginal communities. The decision is rooted in the misguided policies similar to those of the Mike Harris era in Ontario.
Harper, just like Harris before him, is looking to fashion a majority government by scapegoating those who disagree with him.
He views women's groups, First Nations, gays and lesbians and immigrants needing literacy skills, for example, as special interest groups somehow different from the "taxpayers" he likes to talk about.
Don't kid yourself that Harper's motion on Quebec had anything to do with human or civil rights; it was a political manoeuvre calculated to take the wind out of the Bloc sails and stir the pot among the Liberals.
If he really held those principles, he would not have walked away from the Kelowna Accord and undermined the UN declaration that would provide for a modicum of human decency in the treatment of Canada's First Nations.
The Sault Star
Local News - Sunday, December 03, 2006
Frustrated with wood waste, Metis loggers plan illegal cut to provoke court case
A group of Metis loggers plans to cut illegally on Crown land two weeks from now in what they anticipate will be the first step in a legal battle.
About 25 supporters of Algoma Metis Loggers voted Sunday for members to travel east of Searchmont on Dec. 18 with skidders, chainsaws and a truck.
President and CEO Brent McHale said he fully expects Ontario's Ministry of Natural Resources to charge them. "It looks like we're going to end up in the bush, cutting and with a huge lawsuit. The last time we faced a lawsuit was over hunting rights," said McHale, referring to the celebrated Powley case.
Steve and Roddy Powley were charged with illegally hunting moose, and spent the next decade proving their aboriginal right to hunt as Metis.
McHale, also an area councillor for the Metis Nation of Ontario, said the decision to cut "was not made lightly," but out of frustration. The self-sustaining Algoma Metis Loggers was founded in 2003 as a co-op to secure a license to harvest timber on area Crown lands. They say they've hit nothing but brick walls in the intervening three years, and recently incorporated to provide some legal protection to members.
Chair Michel Blais, whose father and grandfather were loggers, says small operators are being squeezed out of the forest by an increasingly small group of huge-scale mills and license-holders.
"It's not right that people who care about the land are being pushed right out of the forest," Blais said.
About 10 years ago the province moved from a system of mill-based district cutting licences to broader sustainable forest licences. Now, the Algoma forest from St. Joseph Island to the Wawa area is licensed to a single holder, Clergue Forest Management, a partnership of six forestry companies including St. Marys Paper and Boniferro Mill Works.
The complaint is about stewardship as well as jobs, said vice-chair Lorne Ebare. The group approached several of the companies, and the MNR, for permission "to collect what they left, and we were told that wasn't going to be possible," Ebare said. "We wanted to work. We wanted a chance to prove we could do it better and more efficiently."
The meeting room Sunday, at the Knights of Columbus hall, had several monitors playing videos taken off of Ranger Lake Road showing what the group says are rapacious — and illegal — forestry practices.
"There are vast amounts of wood left on the ground," said Ebare. Two United States foresters who joined the documentation were "just appalled" at the practices, he said. Kitty Lewis, who inherited her father's traplines along Ranger Lake Road 30 years ago, says she's seen the damage done. Lewis described waterways being clogged by felled timber that is never collected and vast swaths of former trails cut by super-skidders.
"Ecology has nothing to do with it. It's strictly profit — cut it, rape and plunder and get out." Lewis spent eight years "beating my head against a wall" on the citizen's advisory committee the license-holder must pass its management plans by. She said they were nothing but a "rubber-stamp committee" made more powerless as the MNR increasingly allowed industry to regulate itself.
MNR resource liaison specialist Kip Bradfield, who was in attendance Sunday, said he "got the message. They've given us a mandate that they want to meet before Dec. 18."
As to the legality of the cuts depicted on video, Bradfield said there's no way to prove whether it was done on Crown or private land. He added that regulating harvesting practices under the Crown Forest Sustainability Act is "a dual responsibility between Clergue and the Crown working in conjunction with each other."
In an earlier Sault Star story, Clergue general manager Jim Miller said the forest industry is in an already "precarious" state. "It's really easy to say you want to cut trees; the more difficult thing at this point in time is marketing it," Miller said last month.
McHale called the statement laughable, considering the amount of timber abandoned on job sites they're visited. "The only explanation I can come up with is that this is Crown land and there's more at the next job, so let's just do this as fast as we can and get on to the next job," he said. "It's time the ministry took a look at what's going on out there and do something because pretty soon there won't be any trees left."
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT INDIAN LIFE
If you want to understand the harsh realities that led to the Kashechewan crisis, MAURICE SWITZER says, look at the works that are being ignored
Saturday, November 12, 2005
In trying to explain to Canadians what life is like for aboriginal people, it's tempting to refer them to Tomson Highway's earthy Dry Lips Oughta Move To Kapuskasing, or to Richard Wagamese's perceptive look at a young urban Indian in A Quality of Light. But Canadians already get enough of the "what" from media headlines describing places like Kashechewan as a "national disgrace," its 1,900 residents living in "Third World conditions" on the west coast of James Bay. There is not nearly enough understanding of the "why."
If I have to suggest three books to help people understand why there are Kashechewans and Davis Inlets and Okas, it would be Volumes 1, 2 and 5 of the report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (Canada Communication Group, Ottawa, 1996). It's essential reading for Canadians who not only want to understand why, but who are open to seeing that they have a stake in making things better.
Little in the report's five volumes and 4,000 pages revealed much that was new to aboriginal readers. They don't need an encyclopedia to explain why they are poor, or unemployed, or their communities are ravaged by diabetes and youth suicide. Its real significance was that Canada appeared to think it was high time to make a $58-million investment in "proposing practical solutions to stubborn problems," problems that were starting to cause flare-ups at places like Oka and Gustafsen Lake in the summer of 1990.
Nobody is studied or reported on more than Indians, but this time there was one notable difference. Four of the seven commissioners -- including co-chairman Georges Erasmus -- were aboriginal people. Unheard of. The commission's co-director of research was Marlene Brant-Castellano, an educator from Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, who understood the need for patience and understanding in coming to grips with century-old problems.
After 178 days of public hearings spread over five years, the commission produced an astonishingly detailed document. Vol. 1, Looking Forward, Looking Back, is arguably the most relevant history ever published of the first peoples of Canada and how their relationship evolved with their colonizers. It'll make you laugh (there's a stern 1840 Métis prohibition against "running buffalo" on the Sabbath).
It'll make you cry (there's a story from 1981 of the 10-year-old girls at a Saskatchewan residential school who tied socks and towels together and tried to hang themselves). But most important, it will help you understand the fundamentals of Native Studies 101.
"Canadians and their governments . . . are more likely to look on the treaties as ancient history. The treaties, to Canada, are often regarded as inconvenient and obsolete relics of the early days of this country. With respect to the early treaties in particular, which were made with the British or French Crown, Canadian governments dismiss them as having no relevance in the post-Confederation period.
The fact remains, however, that Canada has inherited the treaties that were made and is the beneficiary of the lands and resources secured by those treaties and still enjoyed today by Canada's citizens."
Without a willingness to seriously explore this issue, rooted in the European concept of the rule of law, as well as in native spirituality, Canadians are doomed to a recurring nightmare of aboriginal-policy failures.
Vol. 2, Restructuring the Relationship, creates a vision of how respecting the treaty relationship could lead to a redistribution of Canada's land and resources to create economic prosperity and self-sufficiency for aboriginal peoples.
The country's failure to honour what the Supreme Court calls the "spirit and intent" of treaties has resulted in aboriginal poverty of epidemic proportions. Most Canadians do not understand (or don't want to understand) the causality between past aboriginal policy and today's socioeconomic problems.
Parents and grandparents of the Kashechewan residents recently evacuated because of a polluted water supply were signatories to Treaty 9, and many attended St. Anne's Residential School in nearby Fort Albany.
Vol. 5, Renewal: A Twenty-Year Commitment, demonstrates the RCAP report's real strength. It is more than a recitation of past grievances: It offers a concrete action plan to implement many of its 440 recommendations.
A proposal that Canada make an additional annual investment of $1.5-billion in aboriginal communities for 20 years, alarming to critics when the report was released in 1996, seems puny by today's standards. One estimate in the wake of the Kashechewan emergency put a price tag of more than $5-billion just on providing reserves with reliable supplies of drinking water.
Within a year of its release, it was almost impossible to find copies of the RCAP report's five-volume set. Commissioners had recommended that a CD-ROM version, which included research papers and public hearing testimony, be made available to every high school, college and university library in Canada as a resource with shelf life, much like first nations people regard treaties as "living" agreements. The cost would have been about $1-million.
Seven years later, I rarely encounter university students who have ever heard of the RCAP report, let alone the Statement of Reconciliation that was part of Ottawa's official response. It was titled Gathering Strength. Most Indians call it Gathering Dust.
That is partly because media organizations, aside from commenting on its $58-million price tag, have done little to provide a forum for serious discussion of the most substantial Royal Commission ever mounted in this country.
They certainly did not widely report the criticisms that "the country's large newspapers, TV, and radio news shows often contain misinformation, sweeping generalizations, and galling stereotypes about natives and native affairs," or that "their stories are usually presented by journalists with little background knowledge or understanding of aboriginals and their communities."
But they did widely report on Kashechewan's "Third World conditions," and advocated shutting down the reserve system as a final solution to this "national disgrace."
It is somewhat of a media milestone that this newspaper is allowing me to tell you that the Report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples used to be available through Canada Communication Group/Ottawa K1A 0S9. It can now be downloaded from a variety of websites, including that of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada: http://www.ainc-inac.gc.ca.
Maurice Switzer, a citizen of the Mississaugas of Alderville First Nation, serves as director of communications for the Union of Ontario Indians and as editor of the Anishinabek News.
Report Outlines Water Problems in Over a Dozen Native Reserves