Chiefs want Ontario to cut support for ‘racist, radical’ industry groups – by Shawn Bell (Wawatay News – November 7, 2012)

Northern Ontario’s First Nations Voice:

A junior mining company that called First Nations “hostile third-party governments” has raised the ire of indigenous leaders across Ontario.

Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN), the Chiefs of Ontario (COO) and Wahgoshig First Nation called on the Ontario government to withdraw its support of “racist and radical” industry representatives during a press conference in Sudbury Nov. 7.

The chiefs targeted Mining United, a group of junior exploration companies, and the Ontario Prospectors Association (OPA).

“Representatives of this radical association of junior mining groups has waged a racist media campaign against the Wahgoshig First Nation, who are taking a legal and principled position to defend their Treaty and Aboriginal rights, as well as ensuring that Ontario meets its obligations on ‘the duty to consult’ in good faith,” said NAN Grand Chief Harvey Yesno in a press release. “The Province of Ontario and the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines continue to send a misguided message to First Nations by supporting this group.”

At the heart of the controversy is the land dispute between Solid Gold Resources and Wahgoshig. The dispute has come before the courts since the company started an exploration program on Wahgoshig’s traditional lands in 2011 without the First Nation’s knowledge or support.

While the first judge to hear the case ruled in favour of Wahgoshig, Solid Gold is expected to bring it before an appeals court in the coming months.

Fanning the controversy, Solid Gold CEO Darryl Stretch issued a press release on Oct. 22 saying that Ontario’s new mining act is handing control of natural resources to “hostile third-party governments” in the form of First Nations.

“It is my opinion that Canadians must do everything possible to stop this ill-conceived race-based initiative,” Stretch said in the release.

Stretch predicted that the new mining act will result in an “overflow” of First Nations versus industry conflicts coming before the courts.

“It is plain that Ontario has proven itself incapable of non-biased action to protect Canada’s sovereignty and Solid Gold’s statutory right to access and to explore its recorded mineral claims without interference,” the company’s press release states.

Stretch presented his views to the 2012 Ontario Exploration and Geoscience Symposium in Sudbury Nov. 7.

Stretch is not the only junior mining executive speaking out against First Nations’ desire for consultation before exploration. A lawyer for Miners United, a group of an estimated 60 junior mining executives, told the Globe and Mail in March, 2012 that “a revolt is taking place” among mining companies fed up with having to pay First Nations to access land.

First Nations leaders also took issue with comments made by Garry Clarke, executive directory of the OPA, who told the Globe and Mail that some people in the industry were “happy” with Solid Gold’s hard-line stance on consultation.

“I do not believe that reasonable Ontarians and responsible mining industry members support the activities and statements made by these representatives. It just makes it that much more difficult to have a positive working relationship,” said Ontario Regional Grand Chief Stan Beardy in a statement.

The chiefs are calling on Ontario to withdraw its public support of the OPA and to remove Clarke as an advisor to the province’s department of Northern Development and Mines.