Mushkegowuk wants unique mining plan – by Shawn Bell (Wawatay News – November 21, 2012)

Northern Ontario’s First Nations Voice:

In response to what it claims are shortfalls with Ontario’s new mining act, Muskegowuk tribal council says it has started discussions with the province on the creation of a unique mining plan for the Mushkegowuk region.

Mushkegowuk Grand Chief Stan Louttit said it may be time for Ontario to implement specific legislation and policies giving First Nations consent over mining and exploration activities in the Mushkegowuk region.

Louttit said a clear regional plan would add certainty for industry and First Nations alike.

“We believe the recent changes to the Mining Act still do not fully acknowledge the rights of First Nations,” Louttit said in a press release. “Government, the mining companies and the public have to wake up to the harsh reality that First Nations are here.”

“We are unique, we are different, we have Treaty Rights and (government and industry) should know that consultation and consent are critical and mandatory for any activity on our homelands,” Louttit added. “Yes, there may be 133 different approaches to consultation but the cold reality is: nothing will happen until governments and companies realize this.”

Phase two of Ontario’s new mining act started to take effect on Nov. 1. Under the changes the province will inform all affected First Nations when a claim on traditional lands has been staked, and companies are required to consult First Nations identified by Ontario. The new act also includes a provision where First Nations can set lands of cultural, spiritual and traditional significance aside from development.

First Nations across Ontario have criticized the act for not going far enough to ensure that industry consults, accommodates and gets consent from First Nations before conducting exploration activities on traditional lands.

Louttit’s comments came after Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) chiefs called for Ontario to stop supporting “racist and radical” mining groups on Nov. 8.

The Mushkegowuk Grand Chief offered his support for the NAN chiefs’ position.

Louttit also noted that the Mushkegowuk First Nations are collectively developing one regional land use plan to clearly identify which areas of the region will be considered open for future mining developments, and which areas must be protected for traditional uses.

That plan will include requirements for companies to acquire the consent of Mushkegowuk First Nations before starting exploration work.

“It is the position of the Mushkegowuk First Nations that when the Mushkegowuk verbally agreed to Treaty 9 that the First Nations retained all their rights to control their homelands,” Louttit said. “As a result when any company wants to undertake mining exploration on Treaty lands they need authorization and must agree to the rules laid out by the First Nation.”

Taykwa Tagamou First Nation, a Muskegowuk member, announced last week it is starting legal action against mining companies that staked claims on Taykwa Tagamou member’s traplines.

“We are disappointed that the province of Ontario has still not made it clear that industry needs to respect First Nations,” said Taykwa Tagamou Chief Linda Job. “We have instructed our lawyers to commence legal action against those companies and the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines who authorized the claims.”