Sunday, June 29, 2008

The following story and appeal is from the Canadian branch of Amnesty International. It stems from the ongoing dispute between the Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug First Nation and the Ardoch Algonquin First Nation and the government of Ontario over the granting of mining rights in the traditional territories of these communities. Community leaders who had been imprisoned over their peaceful opposition to mining exploration on their lands were freed On May 28th after an appeal of their sentences. But the struggle to protect their land continues.
Injustice in Ontario: Mining Act in conflict with Indigenous rights

Sign the petition to Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty
Update: Imprisoned leaders from the Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (KI) First Nation in northern Ontario and the Ardoch Algonquin First Nation in Eastern Ontario were freed from jail on May 28 after an appeal court reduced their sentence to time served.
Chief Donny Morris, Deputy Chief Jack MacKay, Samuel McKay, Cecilia Begg, Darryl Sainnawap and Bruce Sakakeep were convicted of contempt of court for continuing their peaceful opposition to platinum exploration on their traditional lands despite a court injunction in favour of the mining company.
In a similar case, Ardoch Algonquin spokesperson Bob Lovelace was jailed for contempt over his community's opposition to uranium exploration on land that is subject to long-standing land claim negotiations.
The Court of Appeal heard that the six month jail sentences originally handed down against the protesters were unprecedented.
While the release of these leaders is welcome, it does not resolve the underlying conflict that lead to the protests. Minerals exploration should not be permitted unless the rights of Indigenous peoples are respected and upheld.
Ontario’s Mining Act allows exploration activities, including aerial surveying, felling trees, blasting and drilling, trenching and the construction of temporary roads and shelters, without any public consultation or environmental assessment. Such provisions are incompatible with other responsibilities of the province, including its higher duty to respect and uphold Aboriginal and Treaty rights.
Canadian courts have said over and over again that there is a clear, constitutional obligation for governments to carry out meaningful consultation and accommodation before any decisions are made that could impact on the rights and interests of Indigenous peoples. The purpose of such consultation is to identify and address any Indigenous concerns.
This did not happen before permits to explore for platinum were granted in the KI case. And it did not happen before uranium exploration began in lands subject to a long-standing Algonquin land claim.

Take action
In March, more than 30 environmental organizations, faith groups and social justice movements sent an open letter to Ontario Premier McGuinty. The letter called for a just resolution of the causes of the KI and Ardoch disputes so that the imprisoned leadership can be freed. The letter also called for comprehensive reform to the Mining Act so that no further conflicts are created.

Please add your voice in support of this important message by signing our online petition
Hon. Dalton McGuinty
Premier, Government of Ontario

Dear Premier McGuinty,I urge your government to take immediate action to:
Enter into good faith negotiations with the Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (KI) First Nation and Ardoch Algonquin people in order to reach a just resolution to the current conflicts that ensures that their rights are fully respected and upheld.
Instruct officials in the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines to ensure that no more mineral exploration permits or mining leases are granted that violate constitutionally protected Indigenous rights, including the court-recognized right to consultation and accommodation.
Comprehensively reform the Ontario Mining Act, including the free entry system, in consultation with Indigenous peoples and with affected stakeholders. Reform must include protection of the rights of Indigenous peoples in national and international law and independent environmental assessment of the cumulative impacts of proposed exploration and mining projects.
To join this campaign and send the letter above go to THIS LINK.

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