GARDEN RIVER FIRST NATION, ON, Jan. 14, 2020 /CNW/ - Garden River First Nation ("GRFN") objects to and will if necessary, challenge Prodigy's attempts to construct and operate a gold mine in GRFN traditional territory, near Dubreuilville, Ontario. Studies undertaken by GRFN and given to Prodigy reveal that this is an area of high value to GRFN for exercise of treaty and indigenous inherent rights, for culture, ceremony and the overall responsibility of protectors of the land and water.
There are other Indigenous communities affected by this project, and GRFN has been told by Prodigy that it is entering into agreements called IBAs (Impact Benefit Agreements), with those communities, to provide for a number of accommodation measures.
IBAs between mining proponents and affected First Nations are standard and effectively considered required for mines in Ontario. They provide for the First Nation's consent to the mine, on the conditions set out in the agreement. This consent provides the mining company, and its investors and lenders, financial and legal certainty. IBAs are bankable assets.
In return, IBAs provide several measures to protect First Nation values in the land, to monitor and mitigate impacts to those values, practices and rights, and to compensate for impacts that remain – through revenue sharing, priority business contracting, employment and training opportunities, and other measures.
But Prodigy has refused GRFN accommodation through an IBA that comes anywhere close to industry standard today, or what GRFN knows to be adequate. "Prodigy never really negotiated with us," says GRFN Chief Andy Rickard. "They waited until the end to tell us there was almost nothing left for GRFN for compensatory measures: no real revenue sharing, and only vague maybe's regarding some contract and employment opportunities that might arise. And for that, they expected GRFN to sign away our rights and values in the affected area. All we required and asked for, is what is standard in other IBAs and what is reasonable to accommodate us for significant and long-lasting impacts. Such impacts are cumulative to all the other harm left behind by 200 years of others coming and taking and leaving us to bear the burden. GRFN territory, which includes Sault Ste Marie, has already been highly industrialized and polluted."
"What Prodigy is doing is like my neighbour saying he wants to dig a big hole on my property but all he will pay me for compensation is $100 because that's all he put in his bank account for this." says Chief Rickard. "This is backwards, but this is precisely what Prodigy has done to us."
"We are a First Nation, and we have governed ourselves and our lands since time immemorial. Colonialism was imposed against our will. For those settler companies who have been advantaged by this inequitable and discriminatory regime, who come to us as an afterthought, make potential relationships worse, and this is intolerable. We intend to assert our rights and challenge this mine, if it goes ahead as is," says the Chief.
"The bottom line," says the Chief: "If Prodigy unilaterally caps compensatory accommodation at low and grossly inadequate levels for affected First Nations, then Prodigy cannot afford the real costs of the mine, and the mine should not be built at this time."
OJIBWAYS OF ROBINSON-HURON TREATY OF 1850
SOURCE Garden River First Nation
For further information: Garden River First Nation Contact: Chief Andy Rickard, Phone: 705-946-6300, Email: [email protected]; Amy Sayers, Governance & Communications Specialist, Phone: 705-946-6300, Email: [email protected]; Legal Team Contact: Kate Kempton, OKT Law, Phone: 416-571-6775, Email: [email protected]