ABORIGINAL JUSTICE: Two nations celebrate small victories.
Algonquin First Nation of Barriere Lake is celebrating the suspension of work
on its territory by mining company Cartier Resources Inc. In March 2011, the community discovered
ongoing copper mining exploration on their traditional lands. When the Algonquins explained their
opposition, the workers on site, mostly from Mistassini and Oujebougaou First
Nations, stopped work and left.
Barriere Lake’s Elder’s Council issued a letter pledging to block peacefully
any resource extraction without implementation of the 1991 Trilateral Agreement—a
sustainable development plan initially produced in partnership with Canadian
provincial and federal governments but since abandoned by both. Community members brought the message in
person to Cartier’s Annual General Meeting. Referring to the need for ‘free, prior and informed consent,’
the Algonquins demonstrated that this consent had neither been sought, nor
granted. The granting of ‘free, prior and informed consent’ by Indigenous groups for projects
affecting them has most recently been affirmed as a right in the United Nations
Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).
the community invited observers, including CPTer Colin Stuart, to accompany
their presence at the mining prospect site, which was some distance from most
community members’ homes. They
discussed possibilities for long-term presence should a blockade become
necessary to address Cartier’s ongoing exploration in defiance of the
In a July 8
press release, Cartier announced that after discussions with the community, the
company had successfully applied to the Quebec Ministry of Natural Resources to
suspend operations. They stated that this confirmed their respect for
‘stakeholders in the area.’ The community responded with a press release
celebrating the decision:
“The community applauds Cartier Resources for respecting our
wishes that no mining exploration and drilling proceed. The company is setting
an important precedent by not moving ahead without the free, prior and informed consent of
the community, a right recognized by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of
Indigenous Peoples,” said Norman Matchewan, a community spokesperson for Barriere Lake.
is now suspended until July 2013.
community referendum in Kitchenuhmaykoosib
Inninuwug (KI) passed with 96% support for both a Watershed
Declaration protecting Big Trout Lake, and a Consultation Protocol detailing
the methodology the community will use in assessing development proposals on
the rest of KI territory.
KI has had
to defend its land against unwanted mining in the past. In 2008, its chief and five councillors
were imprisoned for their role in peacefully blocking Platinex Inc. from
accessing mining claims on their watershed. After two months and a public
outcry that eventually prompted revision of the Ontario Mining Act, the Court
of Appeal overturned the six-month sentence and unconditionally released the
Nation leaders should not have to lose their freedom because of the Government
of Ontario’s failure to properly consult and accommodate First Nations,” said
Grand Chief Stan Beardy (Nishnawbe Aski Nation) on the release of the ‘KI-6.’
Consultation Protocol addresses some of the inadequacies of Ontario’s
consultation process and gives a framework for respectful, mutually beneficial,
land use in the future.
Lake Press Release
Inninuwug’s Lands and Environment Unit (links
to Declaration and Protocols)