From: Red Road Awareness Date: 01 Apr 2008, 11:42 AM
The madness never stops!
Date: Apr 1, 2008 2:16 PM
On March 18, 2008, the Ontario Superior Court’s Judge Patrick Smith
sentenced Chief Donny Morris and six other council members from the
Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (or KI) First Nation, a community of
about 1200 people in northern Ontario, Canada, to six months in jail
for ..contempt of court.
‘ They defied a court order to stay away from a
part of their lands, slated for mining by the Platinex Corporation.
They were also fined an exorbitant sum, but the judge applied the jail
terms because he knew that they could not pay – they were already
bankrupt because of the $500,000 in court fees they had paid trying to
defend themselves from Platinex before the court, over the past
Platinex had sued KI, at first for $10 billion (before
reducing it to $10 million).
In his sentence, Judge Smith cited as a precedent the jailing of
Ardoch Algonquin Nation leader, Bob Lovelace, who had been sentenced
to his own six months on February 15 for trying to stop uranium mining
by the mining company Frontenac Ventures on their lands, about 100km
from Canada’s capital, Ottawa (for a map of the area and some
discussion of the legal aspects see the Ardoch Algonquin First
Nation’s website at: www.aafna.ca and specifically
Lovelace was also ordered to pay
Paula Sherman, the Nation’s chief, was ordered to pay $15,000
and the community an additional $10,000, plus $2000 a day for
non-compliance. The judge in this case, J.
Cunningham, said that he
found the sentencing an "unpleasant task.
The jailing of these leaders offers a window into a whole host of
Canada’s irrationalities and cruelties – the callous dispossession of
the indigenous, the search for quick profits to be torn out of the
ground and turned into money whatever the consequences, the energy
system based on unsustainable premises, the heartlessness in defence
of an indefensible system.
The story in Canada is an old one, described eloquently in a 25-year
old book that could have been written yesterday by Robert Davis and
Mark Zannis (1983) called "The Genocide Machine in Canada.
nations are deprived of their landbases and surrounded by settlers,
extractive industries, or developments.
They lose their means of
survival when their lands are taken or when their lands are poisoned.
They are dependent on small payments from the government.
resist further encroachments on their lands, these sources of income
If that doesn’t scare them, there’s always violence
and jail terms.
To understand the significance of the jailings, it is necessary to
take a moment to explain Canada’s laws on indigenous rights and public
KI falls under "Treaty 9," which was signed in 1929.
The legal dispute
is that Platinex claims it has a right to explore and exploit under
Ontario’s mining laws and tried to do so in 2005-6.
Do the rights of
mining companies to profit, based on provincial jurisdiction, trump
agreements between the federal government and indigenous nations in an
effort to protect the nations’ means of survival? These means, to be
clear, are good hunting, gathering, and fishing lands on Big Trout
Lake in some good natural forest that will be destroyed by mining
operations. KI argued that the drilling would do irreparable harm.
Platinex argued that they were losing money.
The Ontario court went
Ontario’s Mining Act is 135 years old and based on a wild-west model.
It allows anyone to stake a claim anywhere on Crown land.
that public land can be exploited for profit by private interests.
legal issue is whether this law supercedes all others – as well as any
ethical or common sense that anyone might apply to the situation.
and others have claimed that the Mining Act is unconstitutional,
bypassing as it does the ..duty to consult’.
The court claimed that if
these leaders weren’t jailed, there would be a loss of respect for the
law, the creation of two regimes of justice.
But there are two regimes
of justice already.
Those who illegally take or pollute indigenous
territories are not punished with jail terms, the way Bob Lovelace and
these other leaders have been.
The Shabot Obaajiwan’s spokesperson
Earl Badour put it succinctly in a press relese of March 18.
government accuses First Nations of breaking Canadian laws when they
defend their lands, but Canada itself is selective about which of its
own laws it will abide by," said Badour.
"If the law doesn’t serve
their purposes they conveniently ignore it.
" The Shabot Obaajiwan is
suing the mining companies and the government based on the ..duty to
consult’ in Supreme Court rulings and the constitution.
The duty to
consult means that indigenous communities must be meaningfully
consulted on resource exploration on their lands.
This of course
clashes with Ontario’s Mining Act, which is based on corporations
grabbing whatever they can.
The concern for the rule of law that was
Judge Smith’s justification for the draconian sentences is a concern
for the Mining Act above the constitution and Supreme Court decisions.
Higher laws have been circumvented through for the sake of profit.
Other legal trickery included the company getting a court order and an
injunction rather than filing trespass charges against the indigenous
– the trespass charge would have opened up all the legal questions
about whose land it was.
The company trying to get the uranium at the expense of the Ardoch
Algonquin community, Frontenac Ventures, is shrouded in mystery.
Mining researcher Jamie Kneen told IPS’s Chris Arsenault that "aside
from the president and their lawyer, no one knows who they are or
where they get their money.
" Frontenac’s president George White
refused to answer media calls.
The lawyer for Frontenac, Neil Smitheman, is also representing
Indeed, when the provincial court in 2006 ruled that
Platinex had to stop its operations while consultations were held with
KI, Smitheman said "There are numerous mining companies and
exploration companies that could be in a similar situation if there’s
a failure to have proper consultation on lands that could be subject
to a claim by first nations people.
" Apparently the court came to the
same conclusion, deciding in 2007 that Platinex could in fact drill on
For a sense of what KI’s territories face if uranium mining does take
place, there is precedent.
Canada’s most famous uranium mine was the
Elliot Lake mine, also in northern Ontario, that left 130 million tons
of tailings and destroyed the Serpent Lake ecosystem while helping the
nuclear weapons buildup of the 1950s and 1960s (see Mining Watch’s
page on Elliot Lake).
There are no non-toxic industrial mining methods (and certainly if
there are they haven’t been discovered by Canadian mining companies),
so people could be forgiven for asking whether it would be so bad to
leave the stuff in the ground.
Uranium after all is a material that is
radioactive and poisonous and which, once used, is hazardous for
thousands of years.
In the words of Doreen Davis, another Algonquin
leader who was sentenced to jail, "Uranium mining has no record other
than environmental destruction and negative health issues".
a part of Ontario’s current energy mix.
Nuclear power is being
presented as a solution to climate change and the oil running out.
nuclear power, like ethanol, is a false solution.
Ethanol offers a way
to take huge amounts of agricultural land out of circulation so that
societies can feed cars and starve people.
Uranium offers a way to
trade the dangers of climate change in for the dangers of radioactive
poisoning and potential nuclear catastrophe.
But in both cases, the
rising prices are making it economically viable to further dispossess
and destroy communities – in Latin America for ethanol, and in Canada
Paul McKay, a friend and neighbour of Lovelace’s, made some other
points about the mining in an op-ed in the Kingston Whig-Standard: "As
even the mine promoter’s lawyer has admitted in court hearings, there
is a vanishingly small chance a uranium mine will ever get built at
the headwaters of the Mississippi River northwest of Sharbot Lake.
Compared to other deposits in Saskatchewan, Australia, South Africa
and Asia, the ore is laughably low-grade, and the cost to mine fatally
" So, too, McKay argues, recalling the Elliot Lake mines, would
the pollution risk of trying to extract this low-grade uranium from
The point of these jailings, McKay argues, is a two-fold political
One, to the mining companies – the mineral wealth of the
north is open to access and the government will clear any indigenous
resistance out of the way.
These include giants like the De Beers
diamond company, which is operating in the north around the James Bay.
Two, to the indigenous – that any resistance against the latest
bonanza of extraction and destruction will be met with criminalization
and brutal penalties.
McKay also suggests that these mining companies
might be looking, not for platinum or uranium, but for a government
payoff "if the Ontario government effectively pays it to go away.
this occurs, then it will be Ontario taxpayers who end up being mined
for millions. not uranium or platinum deposits.
This, too, has a recent Ontario precedent – the Douglas Creek Estates
on Six Nations Territory (I wrote about this for ZNet in 2006).
that case as well, the Ontario government is attempting the tactic of
paying a massive amount of taxpayers’ money to a corporation to "go
" In addition to benefiting speculators, it has the added
propaganda benefit of making indigenous claims seem prohibitively
expensive and "impractical" (the practicalities of endlessly expanding
suburban subdivisions and toxic uranium and platinum mines having been
accepted as a given).
Governmental games and the indigenous response
When indigenous people from affected communities lit a symbolic,
sacred fire in support of the jailed in Thunder Bay, a town of 100,000
people about 600km from the KI First Nation, in support of the jailed,
city police and fire marshals extinguished it – itself an ugly and
As in other cases (see my article on Shawn Brant for example), the
government’s actions are narrowing options down to make resistance the
only option for indigenous communities.
A March 20 press release from
First Nations of Sachigo Lake, Bearskin Lake, Muskrat Dam, Kasabonika,
Wunnimun, Wapekeka, Kingfisher and Wawakapewin called for sustained
opposition to the court’s decision and the mining companies stance.
group of Chiefs from the western Canadian province of British Columbia
suggested the AFN (Assembly of First Nations) tear up its Memorandum
of Understanding (MoU) with the Prospectors and Developers Association
of Canada (PDAC), signed on March 4, 2008.
"The community members have
been jailed for protecting their Title and Rights to their territories
and any continued relationship with the mining industry will be
indelibly stained by these shocking events… Given the ugly, thuggish
approach demonstrated thus far by the Courts and by the mining
industry, it is of the utmost importance to show our support of the
Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug First Nation and refuse to have any
relationship with the mining industry.
" The Nishnawbe Aski Nation
(NAN) suspended mining-related negotiations with the Ontario
government the day after the KI leaders were sentenced.
"It was a real
insult to all first nations," Alvin Fiddler, Deputy Grand Chief of
NAN, told reporters on March 19.
AFN National Chief Phil Fontaine
visited some of the jailed leaders in Thunder Bay on March 22 and
called the jailings an obstacle to peace.
Canada’s Anglican primate,
Archbishop Fred Hiltz, wrote a letter to Ontario’s premier saying the
jailing arises "out of the continual imposition of the power and
values of colonizers.
The Grand Chief of NAN, Stan Beardy, was quoted in the Kingston
Whig-Standard arguing that other political considerations were at
"The McGuinty government got labelled weak in dealing with
Caledonia, and now they say, ‘We’re not weak and we’ll show you by
throwing these Indians in jail…’ What is happening here is we’ve been
criminalized for practising our way of living.
The government wants to
make an example of us.
What’s being done is, once more, we’re being
moved out of the way, our valuable resources are being exploited and
everybody is benefiting except us.
The federal government has been silent, and by its silence, leaving
the issue to the province, has sent a message that indigenous issues
are not national issues at all.
Given the views of the Harper regime
on indigenous rights, however – prominent Harper adviser, the
University of Calgary’s Thomas Flanagan, has argued in his book "First
Nations? Second Thoughts," that "European civilization was several
thousand years more advanced than the aboriginal cultures of North
America" and that "the European colonization of North America was
inevitable, and, if we accept the philosophical analysis of John Locke
and Emer de Vattel, justifiable" – it is probably better that the
Harper people not be involved.
As for the provincial government, they
are using familiar tactics.
While the Superior Court imposes draconian
sentences, the provincial government’s Aboriginal Affairs minister
Michael Bryant offers a ..compromise’ – in which the leaders don’t go
to jail, pay only some of the fines, and allow the mining to continue.
In other words, surrender.
And despite having tried very hard to
prevent jail sentences, Bryant says, he’s not willing to give up
(presumably on trying to get the indigenous to give up).
But the government and the mining companies are asking too much.
they do in other parts of the world, mining transnationals try to
isolate the communities that are affected.
They want the indigenous to
consent to the destruction of the small amount of land that has been
left to them, in order that some companies can make money extracting
If consent is not forthcoming, government officials will
But to use force, they’ll still have to convince Canadians
that it’s worth destroying other people’s lands and livelihoods for
uranium, platinum, diamonds, or money.
They are betting on Canadians
being ignorant, or indecent.
Justin Podur is a Toronto-based writer and activist.
He can be reached
More articles by Justin are available on
his blog killingtrain.com
Please take a moment today to send a letter to Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty.
The Maquila Solidarity Network has a long-standing relationship with
the leadership of KI First Nation, who have lent support to MSN’s
campaigns over the years.
Although this urgent action alert is not
specifically related to labour or women’s rights in the apparel and
footwear industries, we hope our network will lend their support to
the leadership and citizens of the KI First Nation as they confront
corporations and governments that have failed to respect their rights.
On March 17, 2008, an Ontario Superior Court judge sentenced six
Aboriginal protesters to six months of jail for peacefully defying a
court order that would allow Platinex, a mining exploration company,
to drill for minerals on their traditional lands in Northern Ontario,
The Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (KI) First Nation fears that
mining activity will jeopardize hunting and burial grounds and argues
that the Ontario government awarded the mining permits without
consulting and accommodating their people, a violation of aboriginal
rights and Canadian law.
The individuals jailed include the Chief and four Councilors of the
(KI) First Nation.
One of them, a woman, is separately incarcerated at
the Thunder Bay District jail.
KI First Nation continues to recognize its Chief and Councilors as
leaders in exile and as prisoners of conscience.
It has also declared
that a 2001 community declared moratorium on exploration and
development will continue to be enforced in KI traditional territory,
pending resolution of a treaty land entitlement claim and fulfillment
of the Government of Ontario’s legal obligation to consult and
Write today to the Premier of Ontario, demanding the release of
the jailed First Nation Chief and Councilors and a halt to mining
exploration in KI First Nation lands.
Please cc Lynda Yanz at MSN so
that we can pass on copies of your letters to KI First Nation leaders:
You’ll find a sample letter at the end of
You can also write letters of support to the jailed leaders.
Here are the names and addresses where you can send individual letters
of solidarity and encouragement.
Chief Donny Morris, Deputy Chief Jack
McKay, Councillor Samuel McKay, Councillor Darryl Sainnawap, Bruce
Sakakeep, Lands & Environment Director:
C/O Thunder Bay Correctional Centre, Highway 61 South, PO Box
1900, Thunder Bay ON, P7C 4Y4
Head Councillor Cecilia Begg, is being held separately at
Thunder Bay District Jail:
Cecilia Begg, C/O Thunder Bay District Jail, 285 McDougall St S,
Thunder Bay, ON P7A 2K6
Sample Letter to Dalton McGuinty, Premer of Ontario
E-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dalton McGuinty, Premier of Ontario
Dear Premier McGuinty;
I am writing regarding the incarceration of Kitchenuhmaykoosib
Inninuwug (KI) First Nation Chief Donny Morris, Council members Samuel McKay, Jack McKay, Darryl Sainnawap Cecilia Begg, and community member Bruce Sakakeep.
They have recently been convicted of civil contempt charges and jailed for
6 months for peacefully opposing mineral exploration on their traditional
I understand that Ontario continues to grant exploration permits to mining
companies without fulfilling its legal obligation to consult with and
accommodate Aboriginal peoples.
It is disgraceful that these six people
are serving time for upholding their community’s rights while Ontario
continues to flout the law.
I ask that the Province change its antiquated Mining Act to ensure real
consultation and accommodation of aboriginal rights before granting
I also ask that the Ontario Government take action to release the six KI First Nation prisoners of conscience currently being punished for
protecting their lands and community.
Global Research Articles by Justin Podur
Please…..let’s do all we can…I also ask you to repost this and pass on to many…Tsissy