Governments and industry are “running roughshod” over First Nations and ignoring Treaty 9 when it comes to the Ring of Fire, say the First Nations behind an upcoming eviction notice being sent to industry in the region.
Six First Nations plan to issue 30-day eviction notices to all mining companies with exploration and development camps on Matawa First Nations’ traditional territory.
“Cliffs, Noront and all the other mining companies active in the Ring of Fire will have 30 days from the time the eviction notice is served to pack up their bags and leave our lands,” said Aroland Chief Sonny Gagnon. Chiefs from Nibinamik, Neskantaga, Constance Lake, Ginoogaming and Longlake #58 joined Gagnon in issuing the notices.
“We are sending a strong message to Ontario and Canada that we need to negotiate a process for First Nation participation in the mining projects that will be changing our lives forever,” said Neskantaga Chief Peter Moonias. “Unless and until we have a table for government to government negotiations we will evict the intruders from our lands.”
The eviction notices come just days after the Matawa First Nations signed a resolution affirming their right of self-determination.
Matawa’s resolution, signed by representatives of seven First Nations, states that the First Nations have the right to decide at what pace any development happens on traditional lands.
“The nine First Nations take the position that our traditional territories are under our control, and approval to operate in our respective territories cannot be given by the government or other entitites,” the resolution states. “We are united in sharing a common vision of being self-sufficient, self-governing peoples within a healthy, thriving culture, living in our homelands that shall sustain us for all times.”
On May 9 Cliffs Natural Resources announced they had reached an agreement with Ontario to develop a $3.2 billion chromite mine in the Ring of Fire and a processing plant in Sudbury.
The Matawa resolution stated that First Nations were not part of the agreement between Cliffs and Ontario and only learned of the agreement at the “11th hour.”
First Nations in the region are upset about the 30,000 mining claims that have been staked on Treaty 9 lands without notice, consultation or accommodation of First Nations.
The signatory chiefs took issue with the fact that industry has spent more than $100 million exploring on Treaty 9 lands with “very little” benefits to communities.
The chiefs also noted that Cliffs purchased two junior mining companies in 2010 for $350 million, a transaction where Matawa communities received no benefit from the sale of lands “which the First Nations never surrendered.”
“Governments and the mining companies are not listening to us and are running roughshod over our aboriginal and treaty rights and ignoring Treaty 9,” the resolution states. “The time for talk is over and it is now time to put a pause on the Ring of Fire development and fight for our jurisdiction, our land and the future of our children and our children’s children.”
The First Nations also re-raised the issue of a joint review panel environmental assessment for the Cliffs Chromite project. Matawa has launched a judicial review of the federal government’s decision to use a comprehensive study environmental assessment. The judicial review is expected to come before the courts sometime over the next year.
The Matawa resolution and eviction notices come amid weeks of First Nations opposition to the Ring of Fire. Aside from Matawa’s efforts to stop all industrial operations on First Nations territory, Neskantaga First Nation is attempting to stop Cliffs’ access road from being built by going through an obscure mining court.
“Unless we stop this project now and assert our Aboriginal and Treaty rights we will be left on the sidelines watching the chromite leave our lands while our communities remain in poverty,” said Nibinamik Chief Johnny Yellowhead.
Meanwhile Webequie First Nation, a Matawa member, recently signed a Memorandum of Cooperation with Ontario over the Ring of Fire mining development.