Mohawk Council of Akwesasne Calls For Release of First Nation Leaders
Onerahtokha / April 2, 2008
AKWESASNE, ONTARIO ─ The Mohawk Council of Akwesasne (MCA) issued a statement today in support of the Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (KI) leadership and in protest of the March 17, 2008, Ontario Superior Court sentencing of Chief Donnie Morris, four councilors and a community members to a six month jail term. The First Nations leadership were jailed while peacefully protecting their constitutional rights and found to be in violation of an October 25, 2007 court injunction that permitted a mining exploration company from entering their traditional territory.”It’s unjust and unthinkable that Superior Court Justice Patrick Smith would issue a ruling that clearly conflicts with an earlier Supreme Court decision that clearly spelled out the consultation requirement,” said MCA Grand Chief Tim Thompson. He noted, “Ontario failed to consult the First Nations community that had an inherent interest in the land before selling a mining license to Platinex, Inc. They failed to provide any notification of their intention and unfairly denied the KI leadership with a chance to provide any input.”
First Nations People have existing rights that are constitutionally recognized and affirmed, including aboriginal title and treaty rights associated with their traditional territories. The Government of Canada and provincial governments are required to consult with First Nation leadership before any changes are made that may affect these legal rights. From the onset, Ontario violated their legal responsibility by failing to facilitate a consultative process before it sold a license to a mining exploration company on First Nations ancestral land.
KI is a small and remote First Nations community located approximately 600-kilometers northwest of Thunder Bay, Ontario. Its 1,200 community members draw their subsistence primarily from hunting, fishing and trapping on their traditional territory. KI leaders have a long-standing fight with the mining company to protect their way of life and natural resources from being eroded.
“Who wouldn’t protect their lands from being threatened?,” asked Grand Chief Thompson. He added, “It’s unconscionable that anyone would be jailed for wanting an equal chance to have a say while their land is being discussed. This was a closed-door deal that took place solely between Ontario and Platinex. MCA joins other First Nation Governments in calling for the immediate release of KI Leaders and for Ontario to begin the negotiation process.”
MCA Grand Chief Tim Thompson will be joining Ontario First Nation leaders at an emergency meeting on April 2, 2008 in Thunder Bay to discuss the KI situation. They will also be discussing the critical need of holding governments accountable in absence of consultation and the protection of inherent aboriginal rights.
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