NAN demands Ontario settles Ardoch land dispute

    THUNDER BAY, ON, Feb. 20 /CNW/ - Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) Grand Chief
Stan Beardy demands the Premier of Ontario negotiate a settlement regarding
the ongoing land dispute on traditional Ardoch Algonquin First Nation (AAFN)
territory, rather than using the courts to delay a political solution.
    "The solution to unsettled land claims is not jail time or fines," said
NAN Grand Chief Stan Beardy. "We're in a situation where First Nation people
are being criminalized for practising constitutionally protected Aboriginal
and treaty rights - our way of life on the land. These extreme positions by
Ontario to support court proceedings rather than negotiating settlements could
seriously jeopardize new meaningful relationships not only in Algonquin
territory, but across the province."
    Beardy's comments come after AAFN negotiator Robert Lovelace was
yesterday sentenced six months in jail and fined $25,000 for his participation
in a peaceful protest over uranium exploration on Algonquin traditional
territory (eastern Ontario).
    The actions leading to yesterday's sentencing of the AAFN member are
comparable to James Bay Treaty 9 community Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (KI)
and its litigation between mining exploration company Platinex Inc. and the
Government of Ontario - a story that's made national news since the northern
First Nation community approx. 600 km north of Thunder Bay was hit with a $10
billion lawsuit in February 2006 after requesting Platinex Inc. remove
drilling equipment from their traditional territory.
    Similar to the situation in eastern Ontario, KI leadership currently
awaits an expected April 2008 sentencing for a December 2007 contempt charge
as they fulfill their sacred responsibility to the land.
    "What the Government of Ontario and general public need to realize is
that our people have a sacred responsibility to the land.  It's not that we
operate outside of Canadian law, however the laws of our lands come first,"
said Beardy, adding that injustice at Ardoch and with KI is a threat to
justice for First Nations not only within Ontario, but across Canada.
    "The court decisions coming out of Ardoch and KI affect all First
Nations," said Beardy. "What kind of message is the Government of Ontario
sending when it consistently ignores Supreme Court of Canada rulings to
consult and accommodate First Nations prior to development?"

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

For further information:

For further information: please contact Jenna Young, NAN Director of
Communications at (807) 625-4952 or (807) 628-3953 (mobile)

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