MAC: Mines and Communities

Canadian First Nations condemn Rio Tinto-Alcan

Published by MAC on 2011-10-18
Source: Globe and Mail, Statements (2011-09-29)

Two native bands in Britsh Colombia have accused Rio Tinto-Alcan of diverting water towards a massive aluminium smelter, thus causing a decline in their traditional stocks of fish.

Previous MAC coverage: The consulta movement continues... in Northern Ontario!

The KI First Nation is calling on Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty to stop mining exploration activity on a sacred KI ancestral burial site which, it claims, violates their Indigenous title rights.

Meanwhile, another Ontario First Nation has unanimously endorsed the codification of a Consultation Law and the development of a Free, Prior and Informed Consent Policy Framework.

B.C. natives ask court to force Alcan to release water into Nechako River

By Mark Hume

Globe and Mail

29 September 2011

VANCOUVER - Two native bands in northern British Columbia are going to court in an effort to force Rio Tinto Alcan Inc. to release more water into the Nechako River, where sturgeon and salmon are suffering because of altered flows.

In a notice of a civil claim filed Thursday in the B.C. Supreme Court, the Saik'uz and Stellate'en bands state that the Kenney Dam has damaged the environment by diverting water into a massive reservoir system that powers Alcan's aluminum smelter, in Kitimat.

The bands claim the dam, which was built in 1952 about 150 kilometres southwest of Prince George, has caused a decline in salmon, trout and sturgeon stocks, all of which native people have long relied on in traditional fisheries.

It says there has been a loss of spawning habitat, adverse fish impacts from temperature changes to the water, a disruption of natural flows, erosion of riverbanks, sedimentation problems and a loss of beaver, muskrat and other wildlife along the river corridor.

The notice of claim states that white sturgeon in the Nechako are making "gradual progress toward extinction," because the dam has disrupted their ability to spawn successfully.

David Luggi, chief of the Carrier Sekani Tribal Council and a member of the Stellate'en band, said the Kenney Dam has been an issue for his people for decades, and they have grown tired of waiting for a remedy.

"We've worked hard to reach some sort of resolution with Alcan, but it's just not happening," Mr. Luggi said shortly after the claim was filed Thursday.

"There have been legal and political skirmishes over the years, all aimed at trying to bring water levels up to help restore sturgeon and to accommodate the migratory fish. But all of that has been to no avail. Nothing has changed. So after 60 years it seems like we are left with only this alternative," he said.

In 1997, the B.C. government and Alcan agreed to provide $50-million each to build a cold-water release facility at the Kenney Dam that would have partly addressed the complaints about inadequate flows in the Nechako River. In 2005, then-premier Gordon Campbell announced the facility would be built. But nothing ever came of it, and earlier this month an official from the Department of Fisheries testified at the Cohen Commission the proposed facility wasn't going ahead.

Mr. Luggi said he hopes the court case will force Alcan to work with the bands to come up with a plan to revive the Nechako River, which is a major tributary of the Fraser.

"This claim is all about water and the damages done by a lack of water," he said. "We realize there's not going to be an immediate solution.... somehow, even after the litigation is complete, there has to be some sort of process between the parties to figure out what will work."

The notice of claim asks the court to issue an injunction restraining Alcan from conducting its operations at the Kenney Dam and ordering the company "to release waters into the Nechako River" in sufficient quantities to abate the damage being done.

After diverting water from the Nechako, drying up the riverbed immediately below Kenney Dam, Rio Tinto Alcan returns some of the flow to the system through the Skins Lake Spillway, 80 kilometres to the west. Most of the water, however, is directed to the Kemano power complex farther to the west, near Kitimat.

Mr. Luggi acknowledged that it would be costly to Alcan if the company was required to release more water into the Nechako, because that water wouldn't be available to generate power at Kemano.

"It's designed to hit Rio Tinto right between the horns," he said of the lawsuit.

Bryan Tucker, a spokesman for Rio Tinto Alcan, said in an e-mail the company had not yet been served with the civil claim. "We'll take the opportunity to examine the claim once we receive it," he wrote. "But as the matter is before the court we will not comment further."


KI calls on McGuinty to stop mining activity on sacred burial sites

Press Release

26 September 2011

Ontario's inaction violates freedom of religion; threatens to spark new conflict

Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (KI) - KI Chief Donny Morris is urgently calling on Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty to intervene to stop mining exploration activity on a sacred KI ancestral burial site.

Mining exploration company God's Lake Resources has staked new claims in violation of KI's well publicized moratorium and has worked the site in spite of being informed that multiple sacred KI graves are within the claim area.

Government officials say that they are powerless to stop God's Lake from working their claims in spite of KI's Indigenous Title Rights, and sensitive spiritual connection to the area. This growing conflict closely mirrors the events that led to the jailing of Chief Morris and five other KI leaders in 2008 for refusing to allow platinum mining exploration on their homeland.

"Our ancestors deserve a place where they can rest undisturbed. People everywhere understand that cemeteries are sacred places. But in Sherman Lake, they want to put a gold mine on one," said Chief Morris.

In a recent letter Chief Morris stated that "God's Lake recklessly and deliberately ignored our advice and entered the land" and in this reckless act may have desecrated graves of our ancestors and disturbed other important community areas and values."

"Ontario has failed in its duty to recognize our rights to express our spirituality and protect our sacred sites and burials under international, Canadian and KI law," said Chief Morris. "Premier McGuinty must intervene immediately to right this wrong or he will be personally responsible."

Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug demands that Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty take immediate action to force God's Lake Resources to suspend their project on our homelands; apologize to the community and agree that no further work be undertaken on the KI homeland until the process to identify and protect the sacred sites, burials, the cemetery and other community interests in the God's Lake project area is complete, the KI protocols are complied with and the mining exploration moratorium is lifted.

On July 5 of this year KI citizens voted 96% in favour of a KI Consultation Protocol that establishes a process which outside governments and corporations must follow to obtain KI consent before carrying out any activities which could impact KI lands and environment. Respect for our community protocol could prevent further conflicts, but Ontario has yet to respond to KI's decision.

Chronic disregard for First Nation land rights and efforts to protect sacred burial grounds were found by the Ipperwash Inquiry to be at the root of that tragic conflict under former Conservative Premier Mike Harris.

Contact:

John Cutfeet: 807-537-2054 or 807-738-0935

For more information go to: http://www.kitchenuhmaykoosib.com/landsandenvironment/


First Nation says Consultation Laws are a Matter of Community Assertion

Serpent River First Nation Release

21 September 2011

SERPENT RIVER FIRST NATION - A push towards a consultation law is high on the agenda of a First Nation Council as it winds down a 2-year set of priorities in the next two months.

On Monday night Serpent River First Nation Chief and Council unanimously endorsed the codification of a Consultation Law and the development of a Free, Prior and Informed Consent Policy Framework.

Located on the northern shores of Lake Huron, the territory of Serpent River is the homeland to over 12 hundred Anishnabek and their families. Approximately thirty percent of the community's members live on the reserve lands; the remaining members live in various parts of Ontario and across the country and the US. The peninsula of reserve lands was once assessed and staked for copper mining potential prior to the making of the Robinson Huron Treaty of 1850.

Elected Chief of the community Isadore Day, Wiindawtegowinini says a First Nation Consultation Law is important for a wide list of reasons. The main reason for the First Nation advancing this next step is said by the Chief to be one of "Nation-Building."

Lands and resource policies of both the federal and provincial governments over the last two hundred years focused primarily on exploitation. For instance, Ontario's forestry industry at the turn of the 20th century was based solely on access, harvest, and a tenure system that had no concern or consideration for Aboriginal and treaty rights.

Today, conflict continues to plague relationships between First Nation and non-First Nation jurisdictions. This problem has historically been related to broken treaties and a controversial and contested discretion that treaties left with the Crown. The Chief says that, "this confusion and power imbalance stemming from the treaty relationship can only be corrected by a truly defined and shared jurisdiction."

The First Nation has spent the last several years attempting to work closely with other governments after the Taku, Haida and Mikisew Cree decisions, which defined a fair and just way to assess Aboriginal consultation rights. Day says that because of modern complexities of the environmental, economic and overlapping interests, something must be done to directly formalize the jurisdiction of the First Nation.

"We've come to a critical time in the history of self-government of our community. We must leave a much needed jurisdictional fabric for our children that defines our laws on Consultation; Accommodation and Free, Prior and Informed Consent," explains the Chief. "We have recently committed to a community comprehensive plan for the next 25 years in Serpent River. This is one of the main pieces of our long-term plan - without it we are simply going to continue to march to the tune of another government's law."

Whether its mining, or other proposed developments within the traditional territory such as cottage lot development, renewable energy, or transportation infrastructure, First Nations continue to be tested by an overflow of letters and technical documents for their review. This is often where the breakdown occurs. The Crown is obligated to provide information - while First Nations are not equipped to make informed decisions. First Nation Treaty leaders are saying 'enough is enough.'

Day adds, "Just as other governments have a fixed regulatory framework that collects revenue for the fuelling of government machinery, this law will also look at the cost of our requirements in governing our authority. There simply is a cost of doing business in the territory - it's time both Crown governments and industry pay up so that shared jurisdiction can proceed."

The Chief indicated now that the decision has been made to produce a formal and codified framework on access to resources within the territory, government and industry as well as other First Nations must accept interim processes that are principled and based on free, prior and informed consent, cooperation, shared information and negotiation.

"Moving into the future, we as First Nations continue to stand firm on the protection and preservation of lands of significance. Canada and Ontario continue to thirst for our lands for development purposes. We must make significant steps forward in looking at cooperation and shared jurisdiction; development is a matter of community assertion. Third parties will now have to accept our laws and our policies," concludes the Serpent River Chief.

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