Tag Archives | Juan Carlos Reyes

Long and Sad Mining History With Canada’s Aboriginals Keeps Repeating Itself – by Juan Carlos Reyes

Juan Carlos ReyesJuan Carlos Reyes is the organizer of the annual Learning Together conference and an aboriginal consultant with Efficiency.ca. He is passionate about human rights and works tirelessly to help improve the lives of Canadian aboriginal people.

Let me begin this article by testing your knowledge of a famous case involving the mining industry and aboriginal communities.

Do you remember the Mica Bay incident — the one where a group of aboriginal leaders, dissatisfied with the federal government’s decision to grant inappropriate mining permits and its disregard to local aboriginal land claims, decided to forcibly take over a mine?

The events unfolded when a band of Indians and Métis, led by the renowned Chief Shinguakouse, travelled from Sault Ste. Marie along the shores of Lake Superior for about 200 miles to Mica Bay, where they assailed the mining installations of the Quebec Mining Company. This armed initiative by a group estimated at between 30 and 100 strong inclined the company agent, John Bonner, to surrender without resistance. The incident shocked the government, who proceeded to send a force of 100 rifles to suppress this “Indian uprising.”

If you don’t remember, it’s OK. I am certain that you are not alone — this incident took place in 1849, predating even confederation. I wanted to highlight this occurrence, however, to illustrate how long the mining industry’s relationships with aboriginal peoples have been strained. At the time of the Mica Bay incident, Lord Elgin, the Governor General of Canada, had said: “I cannot but think that it is much to be regretted that steps were not taken to investigate thoroughly and extinguish all Indian claims before licenses of exploration or grants of land were conceded by the government in this territory. This omission is the pretext for the present disturbances and renders the Indians much more difficult to treat with.”

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Is the KI – Platinex Conflict Canada’s own Tibet? – by Juan Carlos Reyes

Juan Carlos ReyesJuan Carlos Reyes is the organizer of the annual Learning Together conference and an aboriginal consultant with Efficiency.ca. He is passionate about human rights and works tirelessly to help improve the lives of Canadian aboriginal people.

During a recent teleconference call with associates in Central America, someone made a comment regarding the imprisonment of aboriginal leaders from Kitchenuh¬maykoosib Inninuwug (KI) and how this showed that the government of Canada will go to any length to advance its industrial agenda, even if it means the oppression of aboriginal people. This individual went on to compare the policies of our government to those of China imposed in Tibet. I found that I couldn’t really counter these comments because, although extravagant, they were partially factual.

On March 18, 2008, six KI band members, including the community’s Chief and Deputy Chief, were sentenced to six months in jail over an ongoing dispute between the community and Platinex, an exploration company conducting work in the region. This decision did not take place overnight. I have been closely following this case since 2005 when KI First Nation and other communities in the region first declared a moratorium on mining exploration in the Far North.

Around the same time as the moratorium was announced, Platinex made a deal with Inco to acquire a number of mine leases in the Big Trout Lake region, which is in the traditional territory of KI. Even though there was a moratorium in effect, Platinex carried on with its exploration work, claiming its rights under the Ontario Mining Act, which provided the permission required to carry out this exploration. KI community members and leadership began peaceful protests that escalated to the point where the workers had to leave the exploration site. This continued until Platinex launched a $10 billion lawsuit against the community and an injunction to prevent KI from interfering in the company’s exploration program. Initially, the court sided with the community, noting that the company knew the risks involved in carrying out work in the region and mandated both parties back to the negotiation table.

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