ABORIGINAL JUSTICE: Two First Nations celebrate small victories.

12 August 2011
ABORIGINAL JUSTICE: Two nations celebrate small victories.

by Peter Haresnape

 The 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.

 In May, 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).

In June, 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 community’s wishes.

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.

 The project is now suspended until July 2013.


A recent 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 six.

 “First 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.’

The 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.


Further Information

Barriere Lake Press Release


 Cartier Press Release


 Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug's Lands and Environment Unit (links to Declaration and Protocols)