NAN suspends bilateral discussions with Ontario

    THUNDER BAY, ON, March 17 /CNW/ - Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) Grand Chief
Stan Beardy is suspending bilateral discussions with the Government of Ontario
until further direction from NAN leadership, describing this morning's
sentencing of Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (KI) leadership a criminalization
of Aboriginal law and custom and a complete disregard for the 'new
relationship' the McGuinty government is trying to establish with First
    "The extreme positions of the Government of Ontario to support jailing
First Nation leaders is an insult to the so-called 'new relationship' with our
people," said NAN Grand Chief Stan Beardy, adding he rejects today's ruling
and the Northern Table is suspended until NAN Chiefs-in-Assembly provide
further direction. "Today's decision has disrespected and dishonoured
Aboriginal law and custom, seriously jeopardizing any relationship with our
treaty partner Ontario. We saw it last month with Ardoch and today we see it
with KI."
    Beardy's comments follow Ontario Superior Court Justice Patrick Smith's
sentence of six months in jail for KI Chief Donny Morris and council members
Samuel McKay, Jack McKay, Bruce Sakakeep, Darryl Sainnawap, and Cecilia Begg.
This sentence follows a January 2008 civil contempt of court conviction where
the group failed to obey a court order allowing junior mining exploration
company Platinex Inc. access to KI traditional territory.
    "Today's ruling cites the rule of law and that KI leaders are not above
the law as they defied a court order to allow Platinex to exploit their
natural resources, however we see that the Government of Ontario is, indeed,
above the law as the Province continues to neglect supreme court rulings to
consult and accommodate First Nations prior to resource development,"
said Beardy.
    Platinex sued the remote First Nation community for $10 billion in
February 2006 following a peaceful protest demanding drilling equipment be
removed from KI traditional territory.
    In August 2006 Justice Patrick Smith ruled in favour of KI, ordering
negotiations between KI, Platinex, and the Government of Ontario. These
discussions failed due to the unwillingness of the Government of Ontario to
understand the First Nation perspective and respect their consultation and
accommodation protocols.
    KI was forced to leave litigation October 2007 after the legal process
bankrupted their community, seriously affecting community services and
    "I am proud of the KI leadership. They honoured their community, they
protected the land, they stayed the course," said Grand Council Treaty 3
Ogichidaa Arnold Gardner who represents 28 First Nation communities in
Treaty 3 territory (near and around Kenora). "The continued marginalization of
KI by the Government of Ontario and industry has the potential to disrupt
constructive relationships that have been established in Ontario to this
point. We've worked hard to get to where we are now and this is a step
    Minister of Aboriginal Affairs Michael Bryant presented KI leadership
with a draft protocol during a meeting in the community March 4, however it
did not address any of the specific issues involved in the KI-Platinex
    NAN Chiefs will meet to decide whether or not to continue the newly
established bilateral partnership with the Government of Ontario (November
2007) intended to jointly develop a results-based process to address and
resolve current challenges in the areas of consultation and accommodation,
resource development, mining, parks, and licensing permits within
NAN territory. This partnership is currently called "The Northern Table".

    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. KI is a signatory to James Bay Treaty 9 (1929).

For further information:

For further information: Jenna Young, Director of Communications,
Nishnawbe Aski Nation, (807) 625-4952, (807) 628-3953 (mobile)

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