Natives and non natives unite to protect lands and livelihoods


    Historic rally at Queen's Park today calls for antiquated laws to be
    changed and respect for First Nation rights

    TORONTO, May 26 /CNW/ - Three First Nations will be calling on the
province today to respect their right to say NO to mineral exploration and
logging on their lands at a rally at Queen's Park. The rally, scheduled to
begin at 5pm with a press conference at 4:30pm, is an event of
Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (KI), Ardoch Algonquins and Grassy Narrows. It is
supported by over 25 environmental, social justice, student, faith, and union
groups from across the province and Canada.
    Masters of Ceremony will be Thomas King, celebrated author and Cathy
Jones, actor, writer and comedian from CBC Television's This Hour has 22
Minutes. Signifying the importance of the issue to Aboriginal rights and
sovereignty, former National Chief Ovide Mercredi of the Assembly of First
Nations will address the rally. A letter from Mr. Robert Kennedy Jr. to
Premier McGuinty will also be read at the rally. In the letter, Mr. Kennedy
asks that the Premier reform Ontario's outdated mining rules and do whatever
possible to halt ongoing drilling on traditional lands of jailed First
Nations' leaders.
    "We never surrendered our traditional lands and we never agreed to be
bound by the reserve. We will never give up our duty to protect our
traditional lands that we use for hunting and fishing," said KI Counsellor Sam
MacKay from jail in Thunder Bay. He and five others known as the KI Six are
being detained after being found in contempt of court for peacefully opposing
mineral exploration on their traditional lands 600km north of Thunder Bay in
the Boreal Forest.
    For too long, the provincial government has ignored First Nation
communities when they refuse industrial development on their lands. The
province then permits industry to run roughshod over them. Recently landowners
in eastern Ontario have also suffered a similar fate because of antiquated
mining laws. This all has to change demand the First Nations, landowners and
their supporters.
    "I think that things like the protection of the environment bring people
together. I think that we all have an innate sort of indigenous belief that we
have responsibilities to the Earth, whether we're aboriginal or not," recently
commented Robert Lovelace, University Professor and retired Chief of the
Ardoch Algonquins from jail in an interview with Indian Country Times. Mr.
Lovelace is serving a six month sentence for peacefully opposing uranium
exploration in eastern Ontario.
    Chrissy Swain, of Grassy Narrows, is arriving at the rally after walking
1700 km from Kenora to Toronto with a group of young people to raise awareness
of the ongoing logging that's going in her community's traditional territory.
Ms. Swain will be addressing the rally tonight. "The way I see things and the
way (Grassy Narrows youth) see things, we have to look way ahead into the
future," Ms. Swain said. "That's how serious this is. What we decide today is
going to impact what happens to my great-grandchildren. Any decisions made on
my behalf also affect my great-grandchildren."
    A press conference is scheduled for 4:30pm on the south lawn at Queen's
Park before the rally starts at 5pm.

    Co-sponsors of the rally:

    The Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples
    CAIA
    Canadian Federation of Students
    Canadian Labour Congress
    Christian Peacemaker Teams
    CAW Sam Gindin Chair in Social Justice and Democracy - Ryerson University
    CEP
    CPAWS Wildlands League
    CUPE National
    CUPE Ontario
    Defence for Children International
    ForestEthics
    Greenpeace
    KAIROS
    MiningWatch Canada
    No One is Illegal Toronto
    NOW Magazine
    OCAP
    Ontario Environmental Justice Organizing Initiative
    OPSEU
    OPSEU 596
    OSSTF
    Rainforest Action Network
    Ryerson Aboriginal Students Services
    Steelworkers Humanity Fund
    University of Winnipeg Students' Association

    This is the broadest and most active coalition I have seen since the
    anti-free trade fight in the late 1980's.
    -Judy Rebick



For further information: or to pre-arrange interviews, please contact
Anna Baggio, CPAWS Wildlands League, (416) 453-3285 cell