Aboriginal Leaders Face Jail Time in Spreading Disputes over First Nations Rights and Mining Claims



    Consultation and Conservation Demands Conflict with Outdated Mining Law
    across Canada's Boreal Forest

    THUNDER BAY, ON, Jan. 25 /CNW Telbec/ - Spreading disputes between First
Nations and mining companies may lead to jail time for Aboriginal leaders in
northern Ontario pending the outcome of an Ontario Superior Court of Justice
appearance today. Chief Donnie Morris and other members of Kitchenuhmaykoosib
Inninuwug (KI), an Aboriginal community in the Boreal Forest of Ontario, may
be jailed for refusing to comply with an October,2007 court ruling that allows
Platinex Inc., a Toronto-based mineral exploration company, to begin drilling
on KI traditional lands without protest or obstruction. KI had established a
peaceful protest camp at the Platinex exploration site.
    Today's hearing is part of a larger trend of heated battles on the ground
and in the courts between northern First Nations and mineral exploration
companies. Outdated laws which exclusively promote mining exploration are
coming head-to-head with modern appreciation of conservation values, including
traditional Aboriginal land use, and modern legal interpretations of
Aboriginal rights and title. Booming mineral prices have accelerated
exploration throughout the region, and unrest is growing among aboriginal
communities throughout Ontario's Boreal. At least nine First Nations in
northern Ontario have called for a moratorium on logging and mining over
concerns that they are not being properly consulted prior to industrial
activities on their lands.
    Despite the Supreme Court of Canada's rulings requiring consultation with
First Nations prior to making decisions that affect their lands, the Ontario
Government allowed Platinex to stake claims and begin exploratory drilling on
KI's traditional lands without any consultation. In response, KI decided to
peacefully oppose Platinex's mineral exploration activities on their
traditional lands. Platinex in turn sued KI for $10 billion for denying the
company access to the mining claims. The KI has now gone bankrupt since
accruing over $500,000 in legal fees resisting Platinex's action. In November
of last year, Platinex filed a motion seeking to find KI in contempt of court
and seeking fines and imprisonment. "Platinex seeks to jail our leaders and
supporters and bankrupt our community," Chief Donnie Morris said. "I'm
prepared to go to jail for my belief in my land."
    "We want our children and grandchildren to continue to use the lands and
resources to pursue their usual vocations of hunting, trapping, and fishing,"
said Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug elder Mark T. Anderson who led a group of KI
protesters on a 2,100 km walk from northern Ontario to Toronto in 2006. "We
want to protect the environment at the potential drilling/mining site plus the
surrounding area which includes our Kitchenuhmaykoosib Lake."
    The Ardoch Algonquin First Nation in eastern Ontario is facing a similar
situation. Their land was staked and exploratory drilling approved without any
consultation; they are also faced with an injunction which they cannot obey
and could soon see their leaders jailed and their community bankrupted by
contempt of court sanctions which will only inflame an already tense
situation. Along with KI, they have proposed a joint panel to investigate what
led to these conflicts and recommend new approaches to mineral exploration on
First Nations' lands, but have received no reply from Ontario Premier Dalton
McGuinty.
    Anna Baggio, CPAWS Wildlands League says, "This conflict could have been
prevented if Ontario had taken a respectful "Conservation First" approach and
implemented comprehensive land use planning before development in the Boreal
Forest. An immediate cessation of staking is needed to allow the conflict to
be resolved peacefully."
    "It's truly tragic that this community finds itself in this situation",
stated JP Gladu, Senior Aboriginal Advisor for the Canadian Boreal Initiative.
"Until there is respect for consultation obligations and new policy to ensure
that exploration occurs only where Aboriginal communities desire it, conflicts
like this one are unavoidable. Governments need to act now to bring mineral
exploration and development regulation into accord with this new reality."
    The Boreal Conservation Framework, supported by over 170 corporations,
113 First Nations and many leading conservation groups, is a vision to protect
at least half of the Boreal in a network of large, interconnected protected
areas and support sustainable communities, world-leading ecosystem-based
resource management practices in the remaining landscapes. Part of this vision
is to ensure that land use planning precedes resource extraction in the Boreal
in areas such as the Boreal of Ontario.
    Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug is located approximately 600 km north of
Thunder Bay in Ontario. Its traditional territory covers approximately 2
million hectares (5 million acres) on intact forest and lakes and rivers in
the Boreal Forest of Ontario.

    Press Contacts:

    Samuel McKay, Spokesperson, Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug,
    mobile: (807) 629-7266, KI Band Office: (807) 537-2263

    Robert Lovelace, Ardoch Algonquin First Nation,
    e-mail: lovelace@queensu.ca, phone: (613) 532-2166

    Christopher Reid, Legal Counsel for KI and Ardoch Algonquin First Nation,
    e-mail: lawreid@aol.com, phone: (416) 666-2914

    JP Gladu, Senior Aboriginal Advisor, Canadian Boreal Initiative,
    mobile: (613) 866-4161

    Anna Baggio, Director, CPAWS Wildlands League,
    e-mail: anna@wildlandsleague.org, mobile: (416) 453-3285

    Sam McKay, Chief Donnie Morris and other KI members will be available for
comment in Thunder Bay, Ontario, before the court hearing on January 25, 2008.
The court proceeding is scheduled to begin at the Superior Court of Justice at
277 Camelot Street in Thunder Bay at 10:00 a.m. EST.
    Sam McKay, Chris Reid and Anna Baggio will be available for comment
immediately following the court proceedings at the Superior Court of Justice.

    Links:

    Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug Web Site: http://www.kitchenuhmaykoosib.com
    Platinex Web Site: http://www.platinex.com/bigtroutlake.htm
    First Nations 2005 call for mining and logging moratorium:
    http://www.wildlandsleague.org/attachments/Press%20Release%20and%20Endors
ement%20re%20Moratorium.pdf




For further information:

For further information: Samuel McKay, Spokesperson, Kitchenuhmaykoosib
Inninuwug, mobile: (807) 629-7266, KI Band Office: (807) 537-2263; Robert
Lovelace, Ardoch Algonquin First Nation, (613) 532-2166, lovelace@queensu.ca;
Christopher Reid, Legal Counsel for KI and Ardoch Algonquin First Nation,
(416) 666-2914, lawreid@aol.com; JP Gladu, Senior Aboriginal Advisor, Canadian
Boreal Initiative, mobile: (613) 866-4161; Anna Baggio, Director, CPAWS
Wildlands League, mobile: (416) 453-3285, anna@wildlandsleague.org

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Canadian Boreal Initiative

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