TORONTO, Nov. 19 /CNW/ – The First Nations of the Anishinabek Nation have taken the duty to consult into their own hands, pledging to engage their leadership and citizens on the modernization of the Ontario Mining Act.
“We have tremendous concerns over the Crown’s consultation process on this matter,” said Grand Council Chief John Beaucage. “However, this issue of mining and development in our traditional territory is so important to our communities that we will undertake our own engagement process.”

Last week, Grand Council Chief John Beaucage, agreed to a deal with the Province of Ontario that would extend the consultations on the proposed changes to Mining Act to January 15, 2009. The agreement also ensures that the Anishinabek Nation will participate in the drafting process of the bill which will be considered by the Ontario Legislature.

“Our goal is to seek input from our leaders and citizens in order to make an informed submission and recommendations on changes to the Mining Act,” said Beaucage. “We are taking this unique step of engaging our communities in order to fully participate in this unprecedented opportunity to make direct changes to legislation.”

The Anishinabek Nation discussed their consultation framework during a Special Chiefs meeting held near London last week. The Chiefs discussed a process that includes the appointment of a Working Group that will lead the development of the community engagement strategy, facilitate engagement sessions, and guide the research and development of the final report which will be delivered to the Anishinabek Nation Chiefs, the Premier, Minister of Northern Development and Mines, and all members of the Ontario Legislature. The Ontario Ministry of Northern Development and Mines will participate in the Working Group and all of the community engagement sessions.

Today, the Chiefs of Ontario will contemplate a resolution addressing Ontario’s approach to the consultations regarding the Ontario Mining Act.

“Make no mistake – our Chiefs have said it, and indeed all the Chiefs in Ontario have said it – the Crown has failed to meet their legal duty to consult and accommodate First Nations’ interests with regard to the changes to the Mining Act,” said Grand Council Chief Beaucage. “Through this process, we are not stepping in to absolve the Crown of their duty to consult. We are doing this for ourselves,” said Grand Council Chief Beaucage.

Over the past decade, First Nations have expressed concern over prospecting, exploration, and granting of permits and leases; all processes arising from the Ontario Mining Act, one of the oldest pieces of legislation in Ontario. This culminated in a number of high profile situations, including the plight of Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug, who had their Chief and Council jailed for refusing mining development in their traditional territory.

The Anishinabek Nation was among a coordinated lobby that successfully called for a review and subsequent changes to the Ontario Mining Act.

The Anishinabek Nation community engagement sessions have been scheduled as follows:
December 2, Ojibways of Garden River/Sault Ste. Marie
December 3, Sagamok Anishnawbek
December 5, Whitefish Lake First Nation/Sudbury
December 8, Curve Lake First Nation
December 12, Chippewas of Rama
December 15, Chippewas of Aamjiwnaang/Sarnia
January 6, Fort William/Thunder Bay
January 7, Lake Helen First Nation
January 8, Ojibways of Pic River
The Anishinabek Nation incorporated the Union of Ontario Indians as its secretariat in 1949. The UOI is a political advocate for 42 member First Nations across Ontario. The Union of Ontario Indians is the oldest political organization in Ontario and can trace its roots back to the Confederacy of Three Fires, which existed long before European contact.