Mining conflict in Schefferville: The Innu denounce their intimidation by the
federal government

UASHAT, QC, June 18 /CNW Telbec/ - The Chiefs of the Innu Strategic Alliance vigorously denounce their intimidation by the federal Minister of Indian Affairs, Chuck Strahl, who is threatening the Innu communities with substantial funding cuts should they refuse to remove the barricades currently preventing the resumption of mining operations in the Schefferville region. "For us, this is a measure of last resort meant to protect our rights over our land and resources. The federal government's attitude is scandalous, " said the Vice-Chief of Uashat mak Mani-Utenam, Mike McKenzie, on behalf of the Alliance.

It will be recalled that on June 11 the Innu communities of Matimekush-Lake John and Uashat mak Mani-Utenam, with the support of the member communities of the Innu Strategic Alliance, set up barricades to block the lone road leading to the mining projects of two companies on Innu ancestral land. Neither company obtained the consent of the Innu of Matimekush-Lake John and Uashat mak Mani-Utenam before commencing operations on the land to which the Innu hold aboriginal title and ancestral rights.

A few days ago, the Cabinet of the Minister of Indian Affairs contacted the Innu Strategic Alliance to propose a meeting with Minister Strahl in Ottawa, provided the Innu dismantle the barricades, which would have the effect of enabling the mining companies to resume their operations without offering any guarantee to the Innu. The Innu's refusal to submit to the federal government's conditions would put an end to the $6M annual subsidy for rail service between Sept-Îles and Schefferville and would jeopardize the planned investment of $73M to repair this rail link of critical importance to the Innu communities. Moreover, the federal government would back out of its commitment to create a roundtable on territorial overlapping in Labrador. "The federal government wants to punish us for defending our rights. We will not give in to this inexcusable and shameless intimidation," said the Chief of Matimekush-Lake John, Réal McKenzie, adding that the Chiefs are prepared to denounce the contemptuous attitude of the federal government at the G-20 and G-8 summits to take place in Toronto.

The Innu Strategic Alliance therefore demands a meeting with the governments and insists on their making a written undertaking whereby the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador shall recognize Innu rights in Québec. "We no longer accept to be victims of the senseless decisions of the provincial governments, decisions made in complete disregard to our rights over our traditional land and its resources. This land, whether in Labrador or Québec, is our ancestral territory. We hold ancestral rights and aboriginal title to this land. Preventing the mining companies from performing their work is a way of expressing our opposition to projects that flout our rights. The barricades will stay up for as long as the governments continue to violate our rights," jointly declared the Chiefs of the Innu Strategic Alliance.

The Innu Strategic Alliance

The Innu Strategic Alliance brings together the Chiefs of the communities of Ekuanitshit, Matimekush-Lake John, Pessamit, Uashat mak Mani-utenam and Unamen Shipu. It represents some 12,000 people, comprising 70% of the members of the Innu nation living in Québec. The mandate of the Strategic Alliance is to enable the parties to defend their rights and interests in a cooperative manner and to initiate various joint actions in order to achieve political, economic, and legal results.

SOURCE INNU STRATEGIC ALLIANCE

For further information: For further information: Marie-Hélène Boudreau-Picard, Cardinal Communication, 450-638-5159/514-349-2315, 1-877-638-5159, mariehelene@cardinalcommunication.com; Éric Cardinal, cel.: 514 258-2315

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INNU STRATEGIC ALLIANCE

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