UASHAT MAK MANI-UTENAM, QC, Sept. 22, 2014 /CNW Telbec/ - The Innu First
Nations of Uashat Mak Mani-Utenam and Matimekush-Lac John, whose
traditional territory (Nitassinan) covers a large part of North-eastern
Quebec and Labrador, celebrated on September 19, 2014 an important
legal victory in their 900 million dollar lawsuit targeting the Iron
Ore Company of Canada (IOC), whose majority shareholder is Rio Tinto
(see press release of March 20, 2013 for more information on the suit).
IOC had tried to have the case dismissed by attempting to convince the
Court that the Innu did not have the right to sue IOC and had to rather
sue the government. On September 19, 2014, the Honourable Justice
Marc-André Blanchard of the Superior Court of Montreal rejected IOC's
motion to dismiss.
Without a doubt, governments played a role in authorizing IOC's projects
despite the lack of consent of the Innu of Uashat Mak Mani-Utenam and
Matimekush-Lac John, but IOC's projects are not some form of public
undertaking. It was IOC, and now Rio Tinto, therefore private
investors, who made the decision, without any consideration for the two
Innu peoples living on the land since time immemorial, to build and
operate a mining megaproject totalling thirty or so gigantic mining
pits, a railway 578 km in length and what ended up being toxic port
facilities which still contaminate today an area greater than 30
"It was not the government that carried out racial discrimination
against Innu employees. It was not the government that expelled our
women, children and elders from their homeland to make way for IOC's
mines. And it was not the government that amassed billions and billions
of dollars in profits by ripping apart and contaminating our lands in
the course of extracting our mineral wealth. It was IOC / Rio Tinto. It
is therefore up to IOC / Rio Tinto to make amends for its acts,"
declared the Chief of Uashat Mak Mani-Utenam, Mike McKenzie.
The judgment issued on September 19, 2014 was not only a great legal
victory for the two Innu peoples of Uashat Mak Mani-Utenam and
Matimekush-Lac John but the judgment will also serve as a precedent for
other First Nations seeking to force companies to respect their rights.
The judgment confirms that proponents like IOC / Rio Tinto cannot
ignore the rights of First Nations and then simply hide behind
The victory in Court will ensure the continuation of the Innu lawsuit
against IOC / Rio Tinto and will only add to the campaign which the
Innu are embarking on to put an end to the colonial attitude with which
IOC / Rio Tinto treats, still today, the two peoples. The Innu will
also seek to contest in Court the new mine, called "Wabush 3", which
IOC seeks to build at Labrador City should IOC / Rio Tinto persist in
violating the constitutional rights of the Innu.
"We are not opposed to development and we are not seeking to block
regional economic development. But the era when companies could come
and develop our lands without also treating us as owners of the land is
over. It is entirely legitimate for us to use the means at our disposal
to make IOC / Rio Tinto respect our rights, particularly in the case of
this company which was the first to dispossess the Innu of their lands.
After more than 60 years of having our rights violated, it is about
time that IOC / Rio Tinto pays its rent," added the Chief of
Matimekush-Lac John, Réal McKenzie.
SOURCE: Director of the Office for the Protection of Rights and the Territory, ITUM
For further information:
Jean-Claude Therrien Pinette
Director of the Office for the Protection of Rights and the Territory, ITUM
Tel.: 418-962-0327 #5245 / Cell.: 418-409-5681