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TORONTO, April 25 – First Nation leaders, First Nation citizens and supporters held a Unity Rally for the jailed Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (KI) leaders and the KI community on April 23, 2008 at Queen’s Park. “This Rally was organized at the request of the Chiefs in Ontario to show our support for the KI 6 and for the people of KI” said Ontario Regional Chief Angus Toulouse. He further stated “The KI 6 are heroes to First Nations people. They had the conviction and fortitude to make a great sacrifice to protect what they believe in. They have been jailed for protecting their constitutional rights.” KI Chief Donny Morris, Deputy Chief Jack McKay, and Councillors Cecilia Begg, Sam McKay, Darryl Sainnawap, and Bruce Sakakeep were sentenced to six months in jail on March 17, 2008 by Justice Smith of the Ontario Superior Court for contempt of a court order.
There has been an ongoing dispute between the community of Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug and Platinex Inc. over the mining of platinum on the traditional territory of this remote northwestern Ontario First Nation. The government of Ontario sold a mining permit to Platinex Inc. without any consultation or notification to the community of KI. The people of KI believe that mineral exploration on their traditional lands will negatively impact their way of life and harm the environment.
The government is required to consult with, and accommodate, the views and concerns of First Nations where there is the potential that a particular action may infringe upon Treaty and Aboriginal rights. This requirement has been underscored by recent Supreme Court of Canada decisions, including the Haida, Taku, and Mikisew decisions. “Ontario failed to fulfill its duty to consult with KI from the very beginning and they only became involved when they were forced to by the Courts to take a larger role in this dispute. This failure and the friction that has resulted led to the KI 6 being incarcerated. Ontario is not an innocent bystander in this – this situation is a direct result of the failure of the Ontario government to fulfill its’ legal obligation to consult with this First Nation” stated Regional Chief Toulouse.
Regional Chief Toulouse indicated that the jailing of the KI 6 has resulted in an outpouring of support from First Nations in Ontario, and from across Canada. It has also resulted in widespread frustration amongst First Nations. “For too long, both levels of government have breached their Treaty commitments with no penalty or accountability. They have repeatedly failed to consult with First Nations before taking action which has infringed upon First Nations rights. This has got to stop” said the Regional Chief.
Despite what has occurred between KI and Platinex Inc., the government of Ontario has again sold new mining permits to Platinex Inc. for new sites in northern Ontario. “This is simply unconscionable. I fail to understand why Ontario would again sell mining permits to a company that has shown complete disregard for First Nations rights” stated Regional Chief Toulouse.
The Ontario Minister of Aboriginal Affairs, Michael Bryant has committed to working collaboratively with First Nations on making changes to the antiquated Mining Act, and on implementing all of the recommendations contained with the Final Report of the Ipperwash Inquiry. “Ontario has an opportunity to make some fundamental changes to improve our relationship. In spite of the many disappointments our people have endured we are still at the table ready to talk. Ontario must live up to the words from the most recent Speech from the Throne because First Nation people are watching” stated Regional Chief Toulouse.
The Unity Rally was held to express the insistence of the First Nations in Ontario for the KI 6 to be released from incarceration as soon as possible, and for the KI people to be dealt with fairly by the government of Ontario and Canada in securing an acceptable resolution to this dispute. The Regional Chief explained that First Nations are not anti-development. “First Nations expect to be consulted in accordance with the duty that rests with the government. First Nations expect to have a say in what resource development occurs or does not occur on their traditional territories. We are through with being ignored and run roughshod over. The government must live up to the rule of law that they say they hold so dear – it is time to put words into action” said the Regional Chief.
For further information: Pam Hunter, (416) 597-1266 or Policy Advisor, (613) 203-3233
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