Archive for the Anishinabe Nation Category

Blockade in Grassy Narrows over Policing Concerns

Posted in Anishinabe Nation, Repression, Resistance on May 19, 2010 by wiinimkiikaa

Blockade in Grassy Narrows over Policing Concerns

Slow response times, intimidation lead residents to call for new peacekeeper services

by Jon Thompson

Originally printed in the Kenora Daily Miner and News

Disillusioned with the service of Treaty Three Police Service, a group of demonstrators blockaded the road to Asupeeschoseewagong (Grassy Narrows) First Nation on Tuesday afternoon.

“There are a lot of complaints from the community members about how the police do their service around the community. There’s really slow response time,” said Chrissy Swain, who was one of the leaders of the community’s logging blockade that began in 2002. “Some calls, they don’t even respond to. There are complaints about intimidation and the way they handle situations when they do answer calls. I guess it’s mainly safety issues for our community.”

Swain began a dialogue with the police two years ago to address response to calls for the community over 60 kilometres from the Northwestern Ontario city of Kenora. Swain said she has seen no progress.

“Treaty Three says there’s not enough funding. They don’t have enough police officers, stuff like that. There’s always something and nothing’s being done,” she said. “It’s getting pretty sickening just sitting back, waiting for something to happen.”

Coun. Randy Turtle said sometimes it can take up to half a day for the police to respond to an emergency call. He has been in discussions with Treaty Three Police regarding the issue as recently as two weeks ago.

“I have spoken to the Sergeant before and the chief of police before and told him we’re not happy with the response time and the service we’re getting for our community. The explanation has always been that there’s a lack of manpower to adequately serve our community. Hopefully with this, we’re hoping that the federal government will give us more money so we can have the manpower to have more police in the community so we can have service for our people.”

Coun. Darryl Fobister expressed interest in seeing a unit stationed in the community.

“Apparently, they don’t want to stay in our community and that’s kind of odd,” he said. “It would be nice if we had officers that got to know the people and we got to know them as well so that there’s less of a chance of anything really violent happening because it’s more of a one-to-one basis.”

Ultimately, Swain is proposing a volunteer force of peacekeepers to respond to safety concerns in the community.

“The bigger picture is I want to see our own people taking care of our own people as peacekeepers so we can enforce our own laws,” she said, adding Treaty Three doesn’t enforce traditional laws or community bylaws.

Last year, a Safety Committee was established in Asupeeschoseewagong, which councilors on the site of the blockade felt could complement a police presence as its mandate grows.

Blockade leaders are meeting with Treaty Three Police deputy Chief Louie Napish Wednesday to hand over concerns they have compiled.

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Lessons Learned from the KI6 Trial

Posted in Algonquin Nation, Anishinabe Nation, Cree Nation, Repression on June 6, 2008 by wiinimkiikaa

Lessons Learned from the KI6 Trial

June 4, 2008 – By Chris Webb
http://www.firstperspective.ca

Seven indigenous leaders from North West Ontario who were jailed for protecting their land were released on May 28. Their case caused national embarrassment for the Ontario provincial government and revealed just how easy it is for companies to mine on First Nation’s land without their permission.

The six from Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug First Nation -plus Bob Lovelace from Ardoch Algonquin First Nation-were charged with disobeying court orders in an ongoing dispute with mining companies Platinex Inc and Frontenac Ventures. Companies that they say did not consult with their communities before beginning invasive mining. Despite Canada’s highest court insisting that consultation must taker place, many mining companies fail to do so. The KI6 and Lovelace were released after two months of their sentence and all charges have been stayed, including fines.

Frontenac Ventures announced on Monday that they would be dropping all charges against Lovelace and six other protestors who disobeyed a court order to stay away from a prospective uranium mining site.

All of the imprisoned received immense public support from both indigenous and non-indigenous Canadians. The Tragically Hip even dedicated a song to Lovelace during a February concert. A huge public rally in Queen’s Park coincided with their trial, and letters of support for the accused poured in. They received support from such high-profile Canadians as Margaret Atwood, Stephen Lewis and Sarah Harmer, who signed a letter-along with 20 other prominent Canadians-to Premier Dalton McGuinty calling for their release and an end to mining on their land.

Debate in the provincial legislature on the National Aboriginal Day of Action-one day after the KI6 appeal trial-highlighted how serious the case was and what it could mean for future indigenous relations with the McGuinty government. Provincial NDP leader Howard Hampton claimed the McGunity liberals brought on the day of action early by not consulting and accommodating first nations. “Two months after requesting that the Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug leadership be hit with penalties that hurt, suddenly, the McGuinty government reversed their position,” he said. “Instead of forcing grandmothers and respected First Nation leaders to spend two months in jail, why didn’t the McGuinty government use the tools at your disposal, use section 35 of the Mining Act to declare that the disputed lands were not subject to mining exploration, and save everybody the embarrassment?”

The Ontario Mining Act is fraught with problems for indigenous communities. It operates under a free-entry system that allows mining companies free access to Crown Land-like those surrounding KI-without prior consultation.

The government constantly misreads public opinion says Joan Kuyek, National Coordinator for Miningwatch Canada. “We’re absolutely thrilled the KI6 and Lovelace have been released, but what needs to change is the Mining Act.” Kuyek proposes a permit system that forces companies and government to consult and accommodate indigenous communities and give them the right to say no. “This isn’t just an issue of changing the act,” she says, “It’s changing how laws work in this country.”

As protestors gathered on the lawn in front of the legislature last Thursday calling for indigenous land rights and treaties to be respected, Premier McGuinty acknowledged their presence but never said why he hadn’t done more to protect their land from mining and their leaders from jail. His minister of Aboriginal Affairs Michael Bryant said the jailing ought never to have happened, “and it is fortunate that now it is over for chief and council. The member is absolutely right: They never should have gone to jail.”

But words that echo through provincial council chambers have done little to change the way business is done on indigenous lands.

Chris Reid, lawyer for Lovelace and the KI6, reported after the trial that the root cause of the trial is “the Mining Act and the province’s almost obsessive attachment to the mining industry and the free entry system.” He added that although the appeal trial judges did not give reasons for their judgment, they seemed troubled by “Ontario’s rigid refusal to negotiate or to consider the possibility of FNs having a right to say no to mining.”

The case of the KI6 will be a lesson to future Ontario provincial governments in their dealings with indigenous communities. Any move to reform the Mining Act or improvement in the consultation process should be encouraged, but it should not be the only step. Dialogue needs to happen federally and locally within the affected communities. But in order for this to happen, treaties need to be respected, land claims need to be negotiated, and the sovereignty and interests of indigenous communities must be upheld.

Why We Are In Jail: From the Chief and Council of KI

Posted in Anishinabe Nation, Cree Nation, Repression on April 12, 2008 by wiinimkiikaa

KITCHENUHMAYKOOSIB INNINUWUG

April 9, 2008

To Our Allies, Friends and Supporters

From the Chief and Council of KI:

Why We Are In Jail

We have been in jail since March 17. This is a small note to our friends and supporters to explain why we are still in jail and why we may be in jail for several more months.

First of all, we want to thank all of you for your support and encouragement. You have given added strength to a strong community under siege. We especially want to thank our brothers and sisters from Muskrat Dam, Bearskin Lake, Wawakapeewin, Wapekaka, and Kingfisher Lake First Nations, as well as Nishnawbe-Aski Nation, who have supported KI and our allies, the Ardoch Algonquin First Nation, by suspending lands and resources negotiations with Ontario.

Contempt of Court and Sentencing

On October 25, 2007 KI announced that we could no longer afford to participate in court proceedings in the Platinex dispute, and then we walked away from the court. After 18 months of litigation and negotiations, legal options had been exhausted and our community was virtually bankrupt. Our position had not changed: KI will not support any exploratory drilling by Platinex and we will not negotiate with Platinex, despite being ordered by the court to do so. Our priority is the protection of our land, not money.

After KI walked out of court, Mr. Justice Smith issued an order which prohibits our members and supporters from interfering with or obstructing Platinex as they conduct exploratory drilling within KI’s traditional territory. When KI responded to the October 25 order by publicly announcing that Platinex would not be welcome in KI’s traditional territory, Platinex brought a motion for civil contempt of court.

On November 12, 2007 we retained Chris Reid as our lawyer. We have given Chris very clear instructions not to appeal any orders or defend against contempt of court proceedings. Our dispute with Ontario will not be resolved through the courts – it must be resolved through government-to-government negotiations between KI and Ontario.

On December 7, Platinex’s contempt motion was heard by Mr. Justice Smith in Thunder Bay. We offered no defence to the contempt of court motion. We told the court that we would not obey the October 25 order and would not engage in any further negotiations with Platinex. We then were found in contempt of court. Contrary to what Minister Bryant has been saying in the media. Ontario did not support KI in any way.

On virtually every issue they support Platinex.

On March 17, we were sentenced to six months in prison for contempt of court. This was expected since Robert Lovelace, former Chief of the Ardoch Algonquin FN, had received a six month sentence in a very similar case on February 15, 2008. Again, contrary to what Minister Bryant has been saying in the media, Ontario did not support KI on the sentencing issue. Bryant’s lawyers asked the court to severely punish us for our “disobedience”.

Appeal

Although our focus is no longer on the courts, a process to appeal the sentences has begun. Since it could take many months before the appeal will be heard we will also be bringing a motion in the Court of Appeal to have the sentences suspended pending the hearing of the appeal. The motion will also ask that all prisoners be released unconditionally and immediately. Our lawyer has asked lawyers for Ontario whether they have instructions from Mr. Bryant to support a motion for our immediate and unconditional release. Ontario’s lawyers have not yet responded.

After We Are Released

Both KI and Ardoch remain committed to the proposal which we made in January for a Joint Panel to examine the causes of these disputes and make recommendations for preventing similar disputes in the future. Although Mr. Bryant has not yet responded to the proposal, both communities have told him that we are still prepared to work with Ontario to set up the Joint Panel, as soon as all of the prisoners are released from jail and a moratorium on mining and exploration in the disputed territories is implemented.

KI’s Position on Legal Issues

Although we say that Ontario failed in its duty to consult with us before giving Platinex permission to explore for minerals on our land, we do not expect to achieve our goal of protecting our lands through the courts. We learned the hard way that the courts are not always the way for First Nations to get justice.

To encourage mining and exploration, Ontario’s Mining Act is based on a “free entry” system, which means that all Crown lands, including those subject to Aboriginal title claims, are open for staking, exploration and mining without any consultation or permitting required. Anyone with a prospector’s license may stake claims and prospect for minerals on any Crown land. Once a claim has been staked the Mining Recorder “shall” record the claims. There is no opportunity or requirement for consultations with affected First Nation communities. Once a claim is recorded, the prospector can conduct exploratory drilling without any more permits being required.

It is also important to know that in the 2004 Haida case, the Supreme Court made it clear that First Nations which have asserted rights claims or land claims, but not have not yet proven their claims, must be consulted and accommodated, but they cannot “veto” development on disputed land. Consultations and accommodation can include measures to mitigate the impacts of the project and provide some compensation for the affected communities, but they must lead towards implementation of the project. KI spent more than 18 months and $700,000 trying to break out of this legal box only to find ourselves faced with an injunction which permits drilling by Platinex and forbids us from obstructing Platinex.

The only way to achieve what KI and Ardoch believe is a fair and just solution is through negotiations between Ontario and the First Nations. Negotiations could lead to land use plans which withdraw sensitive lands from mineral staking and mining. That’s why we ask that our supporters focus on the need for political action to resolve these disputes, not the courts.

We want to get out of jail and go back to our families, but please remember why we are here. We need Ontario to agree that Platinex will not be allowed to drill on our territory, and to work with us to ensure that disputes like this one do not happened again. If we have to remain in jail for five more months, or even five years, so be it.

Chiefs and band councillors jailed

Posted in Algonquin Nation, Anishinabe Nation, Cree Nation, Repression on March 27, 2008 by wiinimkiikaa

Aboriginal umbrella group breaks off talks with provincial government over decision

BILL CURRY
With a report from Karen Howlett in Toronto
Globe and Mail
March 18, 2008

OTTAWA — Native leaders from a remote Northwestern Ontario reserve were sent to jail in handcuffs yesterday for opposing mining on their traditional lands, as an opposition leader blamed the Ontario government for failing to resolve the conflict.

Chief Donny Morris, deputy chief Jack McKay and four band councillors each received six-month sentences for contempt of court from the Ontario Superior Court in Thunder Bay.

It was the second time this year that aboriginal leaders have been jailed in Ontario over mining blockades.

The incarcerated leaders are gaining support from a wide spectrum of activists, including human-rights groups, American environmentalists and even the Kingston-based rock group the Tragically Hip.

Moreover, the umbrella group representing native reserves across Ontario’s North said that it is severing all talks with the province in light of yesterday’s development.

The six people sentenced yesterday are from the Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (also known as KI or Big Trout Lake) First Nation, about 600 km north of Thunder Bay.

The natives are in a dispute with Platinex Inc., an exploratory drilling company, which holds more than 220 mining claims in the area to look for platinum deposits.

The court issued an order last fall allowing Platinex to begin drilling, but when company representatives landed in Big Trout Lake on Nov. 6, natives and an aboriginal OPP officer threatened to arrest them if they proceeded, Mr. Justice George Smith said yesterday.

“If two systems of law are allowed to exist – one for the aboriginals and one for the non-aboriginals – the rule of law will disappear and be replaced by chaos,” he said.

A few hours later in the Ontario Legislature, New Democratic Party Leader Howard Hampton blamed the court decision on the McGuinty government’s “complete and utter failure” to consult aboriginal communities about mineral exploration.

Aboriginal Affairs Minister Michael Bryant said he has visited KI every month this year in an effort to negotiate a resolution.

“The finding [yesterday] obviously is extremely disappointing,” Mr. Bryant said.

The Platinex mining claims are not on reserve land, but rather the larger traditional native lands. The company has said it tried to involve KI in the process and offered financial compensation.

Chris Reid, who represents both aboriginal communities that were found in contempt, said natives in Big Trout Lake are vowing to maintain their opposition even though the court case has brought them close to bankruptcy.

“No way are they backing down,” Mr. Reid said. “What they’ve been saying is they’ll have to put the whole community in jail – 1,300 people.”

Last month, Paula Sherman and Robert Lovelace, co-chiefs of the Ardoch Algonquin First Nation, were sentenced to six months in jail for contempt of court in similar circumstances. Chief Lovelace was also fined $25,000 and Chief Sherman $15,000. Chief Sherman avoided jail time by promising to stop protesting against uranium prospecting north of Kingston.

The incarceration of Chief Lovelace, a professor at Queen’s University, was noted by Tragically Hip frontman Gord Downie during a recent concert in their hometown of Kingston.

“Here’s one for Bob Lovelace,” he told the crowd, before playing the song It’s a Good Life If You Don’t Weaken.