By Ahni / Intercontinental Cry
In a surprise move this week, the province of Ontario has declared that 23,000 square kilometres of traditional Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (KI) land is now off limits to mining companies. It’s the single largest withdrawal in the history of Ontario.
However, it’s not without controversy. While the welcomed decision was based in part on information it received from KI, the province utterly failed to consult them before making the move. The government is obligated by law to consult Indigenous Nations in any decision that would impact their lands for better or worse.
What’s more, it would seem that the government is merely attempting to ‘appease’ KI’s leaders while simultaneously trying to avoid a PR disaster over the growing crisis with Gods Lake Resources (GLR).
A recent Ontario press statement asserts, “The Ontario government has made several attempts to facilitate communication between KI and God’s Lake Resources (GLR), a junior mineral exploration company that holds a mining lease and mining claims in the vicinity of KI, north of Red Lake in Northwestern Ontario.”
As if to say that KI’s not listening to reason, the statement continues, “Our government’s goal is to ensure that all affected parties have the opportunity to benefit from the province’s immense mineral wealth potential. When industry and First Nations communities work together on the basis of mutual respect and understanding, all parties see the economic benefits.” The decision does not have any effect on GLR’s mining interests.
“This decision could have been and can be an historical event, but once again we were excluded,” said KI Chief Donny Morris. “Now let’s finish the job. I challenge the Minister to come to KI for an historical event where we sit down, come to an agreement, and sign off together to make this withdrawal permanent under Indigenous protection. And that should included our lands that Gods Lake Resources is trying to access.”
“We are mobilized to go to Sherman lake. I cannot allow our graves to be desecrated by a company that is hiring guns to block us on our own land. That’s no way to do business,” said Chief Morris.