Aboriginal rights of the Innu in Labrador: the real Aboriginal title rights-holders call on IOC to sign an agreement

UASHAT MAK MANI-UTENAM, Nitassinan, Aug. 1, 2014 /CNW Telbec/ - The Uashat mak Mani-utenam and Matimekush-Lac John Innu First Nations call on the Iron Ore Company of Canada (IOC) to come to an agreement with them with respect to all of IOC's projects on their traditional territory, whether they be located in Québec or in Labrador. The Innu First Nations make this call in reaction to the agreement just concluded between IOC and the « Innu Nation » of Labrador, a curious development given the fact that IOC's mining projects are located on the traditional territory of the Innu of Uashat mak Mani-utenam and Matimekush-Lac John in an area which they claim Aboriginal rights and title on and to. IOC cannot claim, therefore, to have settled the issue of the Aboriginal rights claimed by the Innu in regard to such area.

"We have never ceded nor otherwise lost our rights to our traditional territory, our Nitassinan, which territory we have possessed, occupied and administered since time immemorial. Governments and the mining industry allow other Aboriginal groups with no legitimate claim to our territory to encroach on our lands at our expense. We can no longer tolerate such an attitude which aims to capture our resources and the benefits which derive from them," declared the Chief of Matimekush-Lac John Réal Mckenzie.

The Innu of Uashat mak Mani-utenam and Matimekush-Lac John have invoked their Aboriginal title with respect to IOC's project sites in their legal proceedings filed against IOC on March 18, 2013 at the Québec Superior Court in Montreal, in the same manner which the Tsilhqot'in First Nation succeeded in doing with respect to forestry operations in their historic victory at the Supreme Court on June 26, 2014. The legal proceedings aim to put a stop to IOC's projects in Québec and Labrador and seek damages estimated at $900 million for all the harm caused by IOC.

The Innu of Uashat mak Mani-utenam and Matimekush-Lac John have demonstrated a real openness to finding an honourable solution to their conflict with IOC, which conflict dates back to IOC's arrival on their territory, without their consent, back in the 1940s.  The frustration of the Innu of Uashat mak Mani-utenam and Matimekush-Lac John has never been higher, however, given that talks with IOC first started almost 4 years ago and that they have now learned that IOC signed an agreement first with groups that are far from the main interested parties.

"It was with deep regret and a large dose of frustration that we received the news of the signing of an agreement in the heart of our territory. It is going to take much more than that agreement if IOC intends to turn the page and move forward. After over 70 years of IOC violating our rights, we cannot take it anymore. With the arrival of IOC's new president, the company has now one final chance to correct the errors of the past and to finally build a solid and respectful relationship with the Innu," added the Chief of Uashat Mak Mani-Utenam Mike McKenzie.

The two First Nations intend to meet with all interested parties and are not ruling out further legal recourses to protect their rights.

SOURCE The Uashat mak Mani-utenam and Matimekush-Lac John Innu First Nations

For further information:

Uashat Mak Mani-Utenam
Jean-Claude Pinette
Cell : 418 409-5681

Matimekush-Lac John
Nadir André
Cell : 514 702-8202