Open Letter to Ontario Premier Re: NAN First Nations Support for KI



    THUNDER BAY, ON, March 11 /CNW/ -

    OPEN LETTER TO:
    ---------------

    Hon. Dalton McGuinty, Premier of Ontario

    Legislative Building
    Queen's Park
    Toronto, ON M7A 1A1

    Fax (416) 325-3745

    FIRST NATIONS SUPPORT FOR KI
    ----------------------------

    Dear Mr. Premier:

    As Grand Chief of Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) I send this open letter
expressing the concerns of leadership across NAN territory (49 communities,
2/3 of the province) regarding the actions of the Government of Ontario and
the immoral and unjust political and legal treatment of Kitchenuhmaykoosib
Inninuwug (KI) - a community within our treaty area (James Bay Treaty 9).
    KI signed James Bay Treaty 9 in 1929 and along with other First Nations
has outstanding Treaty Making land and relationship issues with the Crown. I
remind you that the Government of Ontario was a party to the Treaty Making
process and has its signature and honour affixed to Treaty 9. For many
decades, the people and leaders of NAN have been trying to address a number of
outstanding issues with the Crown. And, like other areas and Treaties within
Ontario many issues remain outstanding. I remind you of the recent Ipperwash
Inquiry report of Commissioner Linden in which he stated "the single biggest
source of frustration, distrust and ill-feeling aboriginal people in Ontario
is our Provincial Government's (Ontario's) failure to deal in a just and
expeditious way with breaches of Treaty and other legal obligations to First
Nations". Commissioner Linden also went on to suggest that "the Provincial
Government (Ontario) should promote respect and understanding for the duty to
consult", a duty the courts clearly state is held by Ontario.
    NAN leadership now find ourselves, where the duty to consult was not
properly conducted or honoured in the case of KI and junior mining exploration
company Platinex Inc. Some would suggest that in the case of KI the duty to
consult was improperly delegated to a company that did not have the mandate,
jurisdiction, or desire to address outstanding issues such as rights, a land
claim and unresolved relationship issues. Treaty 9 was not made with industry,
rather it was made between our Nations and the Crown, subsequently the
governments of Canada and Ontario. The court has questioned the role played by
Ontario in this development. And the leaders of KI have been found in contempt
of court and are about to be sentenced. Their sentences may include fines and
incarceration. The people and leadership of NAN seek to impress upon you and
your government that the citizens and leadership of KI have merely been
following their sacred laws, rights and responsibilities for their lands and
resources. This is not optional for aboriginal peoples - It is sacred.
    Mr. Premier, the Mining Act of Ontario is antiquated and is being
politically and legally challenged. Ontario has agreed that it will review and
as appropriate amend the Mining Act. Ontario has undertaken a consultation
process to help determine how consultation on development, including minerals
exploration and development will be conducted. The Ministry of Northern
Development and Mines (MNDM) is also undertaking a consultation process on
consultation. There is no time-frame or agreement on how these consultations
will be defined, undertaken, agreed upon or implemented. It seems highly
improper that a First Nation community such as KI would be facing such dire
consequences when there is tacit admission by these very processes of Ontario
that something is amiss with the Mining Act and the legal obligations and
honour of Ontario to properly consult and accommodate First Nations and their
citizens.
    I also note that you as Premier and your government agreed that Land Use
Planning would take place before development occurred in the Far North of
Ontario. This land use planning has not taken place and indeed, we are only
beginning the process of examining how such planning could and should occur in
NAN territory (an area covering two-thirds of the province) our relationships
on these matters. Again, we must ask how can the KI leadership and citizens be
punished when these commitments remain unfulfilled, and while they hold
special rights and have outstanding claims and interests at stake.
    Mr. Premier, there are many concerns and issues related to our
relationships and planning and development in NAN territory. NAN First Nations
have clearly stated that development will not proceed unless our interests and
needs are addressed through prior consent and meaningful consultation and
accommodation or our Aboriginal and treaty rights.
    Mr. Premier, this letter is in support of the Leadership and all Citizens
of the KI First Nation. We believe that taking them to the courts and
considering fining and incarcerating them for peacefully addressing their
rights, sacred responsibilities, and interests is wrong and harmful to current
and future relationships between First Nations and Ontario.
    Under the circumstances outlined above, the Leadership and Citizens of KI
should not be subject to fines and/or incarceration. They are the victims of
the inaction and failure of many successive governments of Ontario to address
many rights, responsibilities and relationship issues; and, the ignorance of a
company that did not know how to proceed or behave. We put forth that your
government take the right action and bring an end to this long era of
disrespect and unjust treatment of First Nations and their citizens, and that
a better solution and sense of respect be found to address the issues
presented by KI.

    Nishnawbe Aski Nation is a political territorial organization
representing 49 First Nation communities within James Bay Treaty 9 and the
Ontario portions of Treaty 5.

    
    Sincerely
    NISHNAWBE ASKI NATION

    (signed)
    Grand Chief Stan Beardy

    c.c - NAN Chiefs
          NAN Executive Council
    





For further information:

For further information: Donna Kiecman, Executive Assistant to the Grand
Chief - Nishnawbe Aski Nation, Tel (807) 625-4908; Jenna Young, Director of
Communications - Nishnawbe Aski Nation, Tel (807) 625-4952

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NISHNAWBE ASKI NATION

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