The Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal is the daily newspaper of Northwestern Ontario.
The chief of Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (KI) First Nation is calling on the province to stop a gold exploration company from working on a KI ancestral burial site.
“Our ancestors deserve a place where they can rest undisturbed,” Chief Donny Morris said Wednesday. “People everywhere understand that cemeteries are sacred places. But in Sherman Lake, they want to put a gold mine on one.”
The band claims that mining exploration company God’s Lake Resources has staked new claims despite KI’s well-publicized moratorium, and that the company has worked the site in spite of being informed that multiple grave sites are within the claim area.
Government officials have told the band that they are powerless to stop God’s Lake from working their claims in spite of bands indigenous title, and spiritual connection to the area. The growing conflict closely mirrors the events that led to the jailing of Morris and five other KI leaders in 2008 for refusing to allow platinum mining exploration on their homeland, the band says.
Morris suggests that “Ontario has failed in its duty to recognize our rights to express our spirituality and protect our sacred sites and burials under international, Canadian and KI law. Premier (Dalton) McGuinty must intervene immediately to right this wrong or he will be personally responsible.”
God’s Lake Resources CEO Ed Ludwig could not be reached Wednesday.
The company is exploring for gold in the Sherman Lake area, located 410 kilometres north of Red Lake.
The project consists of one block of 16 leased claims. Prospecting in 1935 led to the discovery of gold in the area and development of a small mine which went into production in 1938. It produced 52,560 ounces of gold over four years.
KI states in a news release that it wants God’s Lake to suspend its project; apologize to the community; agree that no further work be done until a process to identify and protect the sacred sites, burial sites, the cemetery and other community interests in the project area is complete; KI protocols are complied with; and the mining exploration moratorium is lifted.
On July 5, KI residents voted 96 per cent in favour of a KI consultation protocol that establishes a process which outside governments and corporations must follow to obtain KI consent before carrying out any activities which could impact KI lands and environment.
Meanwhile, Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Stan Beardy has backed KI’s call for McGuinty to step in to halt the mining activity.
“Ontario must take action to preserve its relationship with the First Nations in Ontario’s far North,” Beardy said Wednesday.
“Ontario must respect the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, supported by Canada, which states that free, prior and informed consent is required from First Nations. This province is failing to recognize First Nation jurisdiction over our homelands.
“First Nation leaders have the right to exercise their jurisdiction by protecting their homelands,” Beardy said. “They should not have to lose their freedom because of the government of Ontario’s failure to properly consult and accommodate First Nations.
“NAN urges Ontario to take this call by KI very seriously to allow for peaceful coexistence, and we support the community’s actions on this issue,” he added.