Indigenous groups are suing loggers, miners and pipeline-builders
Ottawa – “YOU want certainty? Knock at our door and ask our permission.” Dean Sayers, chief of the Batchewana First Nation of Ojibways, a Canadian indigenous group, delivered this blunt advice to a room packed with mining executives last year.
He came to the industry’s annual convention because he was tired of “the hillbilly attitudes” of developers “who want to do business in our neck of the woods”, on the north-eastern corner of Lake Superior. In 1849 Ojibways fired a cannon into a copper mine that had gone ahead without their approval.
These days Canada’s aboriginal groups use public pressure, backed by legal action, to protect their lands against exploitation by outsiders.
This month the government of British Columbia reached agreement with forest companies, environmental groups and 26 First Nations communities to protect from logging an area on the Pacific coast larger than Belgium—newly dubbed the Great Bear Rainforest.
The deal, which allows logging and mining in areas aboriginals have agreed to, is the culmination of a long public-relations campaign (choosing the Kermode bear as its mascot was a masterstroke). It would have got nowhere without centuries of treaty-making and decades of case law to back it up.
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