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TORONTO, April 3 – First Nations leadership met yesterday in Thunder Bay to discuss the imprisonment of First Nation leaders for protecting their constitutional rights. On March 17, 2008, Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (KI) Chief Donny Morris, Deputy Chief Jack McKay, Councillor Cecilia Begg, Councillor Darryl Sainnawap, and community member Bruce Sakakeep were sentenced to six months in jail for contempt of court. The Court system and their interpretation of the Rule of Law does not accommodate First Nation laws and rights. By definition the “Rule of Law” should and must include the recognition of First Nation constitutional rights contained in the Constitution Act, 1982. Much of Canadian statutory law and regulations pre-date the 1982 recognition of aboriginal and treaty rights even though such rights have been in existence prior to Canada forming as a state. A review to determine whether federal and provincial laws conform with section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982 has not been done.
The lack of federal and provincial law conformance with aboriginal and treaty rights forces judges and the courts to impose a discriminatory form of justice. First Nations people are characterized as disrespecting Canadian laws. In fact, First Nations leaders such as the KI 6 are acting in accordance with their own laws and rights.
In the majority of instances, conflicts between First Nations peoples and Canadian governments end up adjudicated in provincial or federal courts instead of impartial tribunals. Provincial and federal courts are established to administer and enforce provincial and federal laws so First Nations peoples and their rights are always going to be at a disadvantage.
The First Nation leaders that gathered in Thunder Bay were unanimous in their support for the jailed KI leadership (KI 6) and expressed considerable respect and support for the determination of this group of First Nation heroes. They are heroes because they stood up for what they believe in. As First Nation peoples we derive our survival and very identity from the land. It is incumbent upon us to protect the land for the survival of our future generations.
What the provincial government has done is that they have jailed respected First Nation leaders for protecting their land and standing up for the values and beliefs that they hold dear. This solves nothing. It deters no First Nation from taking action to protect their land. What they have accomplished is to push First Nations past the breaking point of frustration. The First Nations leadership that met in Thunder Bay have said “enough is enough”, so much has been taken from First Nations from the time of contact and now our people will be jailed for protecting what little we have left. We won’t sit idly by while such blatantly unfair and unacceptable acts are committed against our First Nation brothers and sisters.
In support of the people of Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug and the jailed KI 6 leaders, First Nations in Ontario determined they will act collectively to express visible and loud support through rallies and demonstrations commencing immediately and continuing until the KI prisoners are released.
Other actions and demands of support expressed by the Ontario First Nations leadership include a demand that the Provincial government withdraw the mining permits issued on the lands of KI. Furthermore, the First Nations leaders support the demand of the KI peoples to be reimbursed for all of the litigation and related costs for asserting and protecting their rights.
First Nations in Ontario note the silence of the Federal Government as negligent and dishonourable conduct. The federal government is the partner in the Treaty 9 relationship between the KI peoples and the Crown yet the federal government has not acted as a fiduciary and treaty partner to ensure that the provincial government and Platinex, a Canadian corporate entity, respects the constitutionally guaranteed treaty rights of the KI peoples. First Nations leadership in Ontario demand that the federal government act in a responsible and honourable manner to facilitate an acceptable solution in this matter.
The following is the banking information for the KI Legal Fund for those able to make a financial contribution:
For further information: Pam Hunter, (416) 597-1266; or Policy Advisor, (613) 203-3233
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