TORONTO – No mining venture will succeed without First Nations participation at the earliest stages.
That’s what Anishinabek Nation Lake Huron Grand Chief Isadore Day, Wiindawtegowinini, told those attending the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) conference today. “It is time for a real relationship with First Nations with Ontario’s mining sector,” says Chief Day. “This relationship must respect the rights and interests – from a treaty perspective. The approach of First Nation equity in the land and in the treaty relationship must be a starting baseline in negotiations – this is where certainty will be established and maintained.” The Anishinabek Nation Grand Council Chief, Patrick Madahbee, says Chief Day’s position is supported by the Supreme Court of Canada.
“According to this country’s own rules in decisions from the Supreme Court of Canada, First Nations must be consulted and accommodated whenever their rights are about to be impacted,” says Madahbee. “I’m at a loss as to why the province has decided to encourage mining within First Nation territories without due diligence, especially after we’ve had direct dialogue on resource revenue sharing.”
PDAC has gone on record applauding Canada’s Economic Action Plan and coincidentally there’s a big push for northern development in the plan. The Economic Action Plan 2014 promises to work with the province in developing and/or strengthening transportation and infrastructure in the north. Both levels of government have promised to add millions of dollars to “strategic Investments in Northern Economic Development”. A large part of the provincial and federal investments will be in the exploration sector.
Chief Day says the Ontario landscape has not involved the treaty relationship.
“It will be vital – if Ontario wants to move forward – that treaties become the focus,” says Chief Day. “Issues like environmental protection, social impact, and economic wealth must be on the table during government to government discussions. Just as it was set out in all treaties in Ontario – First Nations must be equal partners in all aspects of development.” Madahbee says the government is aware of the lack of infrastructure, capacity and resources in First Nation communities – especially in the north.
“I don’t know how else to put it, when you’re in First Nation treaty and traditional territory you must sit down with that First Nation and have meaningful dialogue that goes both ways,” says Madahbee. “But they’re also aware that mining companies are one of the leading contributors to the province’s wealth, so they make decisions based on increasing wealth and not on necessities of treaty laws or Supreme Court Rulings. As long as First Nations are shut out of discussions at every level of development, Canada and Ontario can expect resistance and uncertainty.”