WENDAKE, QC, Dec. 10, 2013 /CNW Telbec/ - The Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador (AFNQL) strongly opposes two very specific issues of the new Mining Act and demanded the Quebec government to listen to what they had to say on these issues before its adoption last night.
Section 2 of the Act proposes new "consultation" measures, but this is not at all what is at stake. Without an exploration permit as a prerequisite, this consultation will be meaningless, because Quebec will still have no control whatsoever over the exploration work with this legislation.
"Since the government has ignored our request to introduce in the current legislation the prerequisite of an exploration permit, despite its existence everywhere in Canada, including British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario and Newfoundland, the matter will inevitably be settled in Court, as was the case in Yukon, where the First Nations won their case on exactly the same issue (Ross River Ruling). This means that after all those months of work on the reform, it will not be the end of it, with all the uncertainty that it will create for the mining industry", states Chief Gilbert Dominique.
Worse still, the new Mining Act even constitutes a major setback in respecting First Nation self-governance, in relation to the status quo of the previous Mining Act. Minister Ouellet insists, in sections 59 and 79, in spite of fierce protests of First Nations in Quebec, on forcing the mining companies to disclose the information contained in the confidential commercial agreements they signed with the First Nations.
"As we repeatedly stated, and just like many stakeholders emphasized it before the Parliamentary Commission on Bill 43, if the government was looking for the best possible means to worsening relations and increasing tensions between First Nations and the government, and to further increase the uncertainty in the mining industry in Quebec, it certainly got the right one. The AFNQL considers that everyone will come out losing in this manœuvre: the government, the industry and the First Nations", stated Chief Ghislain Picard of the AFNQL.
The Minister of Natural Resources could have avoided a new era of conflicts in the mining industry by eliminating this paternalistic measure of the Quebec government in this new law, a measure which, let's not forget, will not be found anywhere else, except in Quebec. But the Minister opted for confrontation. The AFNQL is shocked about the fact that the government is prepared to clash with the First Nations, simply to continue with its desperate fight to come up with statistics on their confidential agreements.
"As we already indicated to the government, it has become extremely difficult to convince the Chiefs who sit at the AFNQL about the sincerity of the Quebec government who claims its intention of building a nation-to-nation relationship. The new law adopted yesterday represents unfortunately, another example of complete failure to understand the issues that are peculiar to the First Nations", concluded Chief Picard.
About the AFNQL
The Assembly of the First Nations of Quebec and Labrador is the political organization regrouping 43 Chiefs of the First Nations of Quebec and Labrador. www.apnql-afnql.com.
SOURCE: Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador
Mélanie Vincent ([email protected])