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KI First Nation mobilizes to block Mining on their sacred land

by Tim Groves

KI First Nation mobilizes to block Mining on their sacred land

On March 6th over 120 people gathered to protest mining on the sacred lands of the Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (KI) First Nation. They held a boisterous rally across the street from the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, which is hosting the words largest mining industry convention.  

KI is currently mobilizing to prevent gold mining company God’s Lake Resources from prospecting or mining on their homelands. The Ontario government has indicated that the company plans to begin prospecting this month.  

“We want the Government to recognize we are a nation, we are a government, we have our own sacred laws” said KI Councilor Cecillia Beggs, addressing the crowd.

Supporters carried placards, flags and two giant 25ft banners, one reading “Protect Sacred KI Lands” and the other “No mining abuse.” 

Several speakers from KI addressed the crowd in Oji-Cree and English. There were also speakers from the Ontario Federation of Labour, and NGOs including Mining Watch Canada, the Council of Canadians and Greenpeace.

"Canada needs to respect KI's leadership including our right to say no,” Beggs told the Toronto Media Co-op, explaining that government and industry “need to respect our ancestral lands, our indigenous laws and our sacred burial sites.”

Beggs was one of six members of the community who were jailed in 2008 for opposing a previous gold mining company, Platinex, from operating on their land despite a court injunction.  The campaign against the company eventually led the Ontario Government to pay Platinex over $5 Million in 2009 to abandon their mining claim. 

Beggs said she would be willing to be arrested again to prevent God's Lake Resources from mining on their land. 

God's Lake Resources released a statement on March 1st saying that they were "canvassing security companies to ensure the smooth completion of the drill program."  

On March 4th, the Ontario government responded to the escalating tensions between KI and God's Lake Resources by releasing a statement, saying it had "withdrawn” 23,181 square kilometers from prospecting and mining. 

However, a press release from KI Cheif Donny Morris says the withdrawn land "does not include Gods Lake Resources’ (GLR) claims and leases at Sherman Lake in KI Homeland, a sacred area known to have KI burials and other cultural values." 

The media release expressed concern that the Minister of Northern Development and Mines, Rick Bartolucci, had made the decision without consulting KI or considering their leadership over the land.

"I challenge the Minister to come to KI for an historical event where we sit down, come to agreement, and sign off together to make this withdrawal permanent under KI Indigenous protection.  And that should include our land that Gods Lake Resources is trying to access. Come to KI to sign together in a true spirit of cooperation.”

While several leaders from KI attended the rally in Toronto, Chief Morris traveled to the Sherman Lake region in which God’s Lake Resources hopes to prospect for gold. 

“As long as there is breath in me I will defend our land,” said KI Councilor Randy Nanokeesic, addressing the crowd in Toronto. “I grew up on the trapline, I live from the land and I will live to defend it.”

 “We have people supporting us, and with greater awareness and support I am sure that we will be successful,” said Beggs. 

Beggs and Nanokeesic were among the speakers on a panel at the Steel Workers Hall the previous night. That event also saw the launch of a new film on KI and its struggle to protect its lands.  

You can watch the film here: http://toronto.mediacoop.ca/video/ki-film-event-and-protest/10136

 

 


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Tim Groves (Tim Groves)
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