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Wahgoshig First Nation Chief David Babin and Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) Grand Chief Harvey Yesno are calling on the province to withdraw its support of the Ontario Prospectors Association (OPA) and an industry fringe group for what they term a campaign of “racism” against First Nations.
“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 Grand Chief Yesno in a Nov. 7 statement.
Babin and NAN were outraged by a presentation made by Darryl Stretch, president of Solid Gold Resources, at the Ontario Exploration and Geoscience Symposium in Sudbury on Nov.7. The annual event is hosted by the OPA and contains a significant provincial government presence.
Stretch is the midst of an ongoing, heated legal dispute with the Wahgoshig First Nation over an exploration drilling program at his Lake Abitibi gold play in northeastern Ontario.
Babin, who sought a court injunction against Solid Gold last November to stop exploration, categorized Stretch’s speech and remarks as “offensive.”
“This guy has no intention of working with First Nations people,” said Babin.
NAN, a Thunder Bay-based Aboriginal political organization, is calling on Ontario to withdraw support of the Ontario Prospectors Association and remove executive director Garry Clark as an advisor on various industry committees.
“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,” said Yesno.
NAN and Wahgoshig accuse the OPA of being affiliated with Miners United, a fringe group of prospectors and junior mining executives frustrated by government inaction on the rules of First Nation consultation.
“I do not believe that reasonable Ontarians and responsible mining industry members support the activities and statements made by these representatives,” added NAN Regional Grand Chief Stan Beardy. “It just makes it that much more difficult to have a positive working relationship.”