Toronto (April 23, 2008) Anishinabek Nation leaders and citizens are joining a rally of First Nations citizens from across the province at Queen’s Park today to draw attention to the shortcomings of the Ontario Mining Act.

Grand Council Chief John Beaucage said the imprisonment of five council members and one community member from Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug First Nation in Treaty 9 territory has increased the urgency of ongoing Anishinabek/Ontario talks about land use and disposition.

“We will be continuing these discussions with the Province with a specific focus on mining and exploration,” said Beaucage. “We will be working toward comprehensive changes to the Mining Act that reflect the obligation on other parties to consult with First Nations and accommodate our interests before they undertake exploration on our traditional lands.”

“Our citizens do not want to block economic progress, we want to be part of it,” said Beaucage. “However, the rule of law in Canada – as outlined by the Constitution and the Courts – and Anishinabek Traditional Law indeed support our aboriginal right to protect our traditional territories, as well as our treaty rights to share in the wealth derived from them. As far as we’re concerned, human rights will always trump mineral rights.”

Grand Council Chief Beaucage said that the jailing of leaders from KI sends a message to the world that the rights of indigenous peoples are not as valid as those of others who live in Canada.

“This is precisely why Canada should have been a signatory to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”

The Grand Council Chief said a consultation process involving the 42 Anishinabek First Nations will provide the basis for a position paper on mining exploration to be tabled at June’s annual Anishinabek Grand Council Assembly.

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.