THUNDER BAY (March 17, 2008) – Anishinabek Nation leadership are demonstrating their support for a Treaty 9 community whose chief was prepared to go to jail for refusing to allow a mining company to conduct exploration activity on traditional territory.
Deputy Grand Chief Glen Hare represented the 42 member communities of the Anishinabek Nation at the Ontario Superior Court building today where Judge Patrick Smith sentenced Chief Donny Morris of Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug and six council members to six months in prison for contempt of court. The councillors of the fly-in First Nation about 600 km north of Thunder Bay defied an Oct. 25 court order granting Platinex Inc. access to Big Trout Lake, which the First Nation claim as ancestral land.
“In one breath we hear Ontario talk about the importance of First Nations sharing in the wealth of the province’s resource revenues, and in the next breath they ignore Supreme Court of Canada rulings that say we need to be consulted by companies wanting to exploit our lands,” said Deputy Grand Chief Hare. “Meaningful consultation involves mutual respect, not telling First Nations where you’re going to drill for ore or clear-cut forests. That’s not how good neighbours behave.”
Despite several recent Supreme Court rulings requiring consultations with First Nations prior to making decisions affecting their lands, the Ontario government has allowed the Toronto-based junior mining company to stake claims and begin exploratory drilling for platinum. When First Nation members peacefully protested their activities, Platinex retaliated with a $10-billion lawsuit, subsequently reduced to $10 million.
Chief Morris says $500,000 in legal fees defending the suit have bankrupted his community, and he and his council accepted Justice Smith’s Oct. 25 ruling that found them in contempt for continuing to deny Platinex workers access to the exploration site.
“The province of Ontario needs to develop policies that support partnerships involving First Nations in harvesting natural resources,” said Deputy Grand Chief Hare. “We won’t tolerate our citizens being punished for defending our traditional territories.”
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.