Canada - New court victory for the Innu against Rio Tinto (IOC)Published by MAC on 2015-01-08
Source: Statement (2015-01-07)
Quebec Court of Appeal authorizes $900M lawsuit
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Canada - New court victory for the Innu against Rio Tinto (IOC)
Bureau de la protection des droits et du territoire, ITUM press release
7 January 2015
UASHAT MAK MANI-UTENAM, QC – The Innu First Nations of Uashat Mak Mani-Utenam and Matimekush-Lac John, whose traditional territory (Nitassinan) covers a large part of North-eastern Quebec and Labrador, celebrated on January 6, 2015 a new legal victory in their 900 million dollar lawsuit targeting the Iron Ore Company of Canada (majority owned as well as operated by the mining giant Rio Tinto). Rio Tinto (IOC) was seeking to have the case dismissed before trial by arguing that the Innu should have sued the government rather than the company. On September 19, 2014, the Rio Tinto (IOC) motion to dismiss the lawsuit was rejected at first instance by the Quebec Superior Court and the Court of Appeal has now refused to hear an appeal of the judgment by Rio Tinto (IOC).
“Rio Tinto and its subsidiary IOC continue to try to ignore us, just as they always have. IOC’s president even refuses to meet with us personally. But after this judgement, Rio Tinto (IOC) will no longer be able to hide. The highest Court in Quebec has made clear that Rio Tinto’s subsidiary IOC will have to answer in Court for its violations of our constitutionally protected rights, which violations date back to the 1950s”, declared the Chief of Uashat Mak Mani-Utenam, Mike McKenzie.
Despite their 900 million dollar lawsuit and the injunction they are seeking to put an end to the “IOC megaproject”, the Innu have tried time and again to achieve an honourable outcome with Rio Tinto by way of negotiation. The Innu even offered Rio Tinto one last chance to make peace this fall after having organized and carried out a campaign (the “Rio Tinto-IOC must pay its rent” campaign) to educate Rio Tinto on the grave prejudice that the “IOC megaproject” has caused them and continues to cause them.
“While we have made every effort possible to come to an agreement with the company, Rio Tinto (IOC) was more negative than ever this fall. And yet we have had no trouble in coming to terms with all other mining operators on our territory. In this matter, Rio Tinto continues to act as a rogue company: it seems to believe that norms concerning the respect of the rights of First Nations do not apply to it. The fact that Rio Tinto is the only mining company on our lands that acts in such a manner constitutes both an injustice to our peoples as well as an injustice to the other mining companies that act as good corporate citizens on our territory and elsewhere in Canada”, added the Chief of Matimekush-Lac John, Réal McKenzie.
This great legal victory ensures the continuation of the legal proceedings of the Innu against Rio Tinto and its subsidiary IOC and, in addition, serves to confirm that private companies like Rio Tinto (IOC) cannot ignore the rights of First Nations and then simply hide behind government.
For more information on the conflict: http://ioc-riotinto-innu.com/eng/ & background document at https://national.respublica.ca/seos/2000/mpd/ui0903201540440e976608453df...
For further information: Jean-Claude Therrien Pinette, Director, Office for the Protection of Rights and the Territory, ITUM, Cell.: 418-409-5681, jean-claude.pinette[at]itum.qc.ca
Canadian court hands victory to First Nations in lawsuit against Rio Tinto
8 January 2015
Two Quebec Innu communities whose traditional territory covers a large part of the province northeast and Labrador, have achieved a crucial legal victory in their battle for Cdn$900 million ($760 million) in compensation from Rio Tinto-owned Iron Ore Co. of Canada (IOC).
The win came as the Quebec Court of Appeal, which is the province’s highest court, said Wednesday it won’t hear an appeal of a September 2014 Quebec Superior Court judgment that rejected a motion to dismiss the lawsuit.
The Innu First Nations of Uashat Mak Mani-Utenam (Uashaunnuat) and Matimekush-Lac John claim that IOC has violated their rights for nearly 60 years by running a large mining complex and railway on traditional territory in northeastern Quebec and Labrador without prior consent.
Rio was pursuing the suit dismissal by arguing that the provincial government is the one that should be targeted and not the company.
The Innu claim says IOC’s mines and facilities have ruined the environment, displaced members from their territory and prevented them from practicing their traditional way of life. They also said the 578-kilometre railway between Schefferville and Sept-Iles has opened up their territory to “numerous other destructive development projects.”
The allegations have not been proven in court.
"Rio Tinto and its subsidiary IOC continue to try to ignore us, just as they always have. IOC's president even refuses to meet with us personally. But after this judgement, [the companies] will no longer be able to hide,” said Chief of Uashat Mak Mani-Utenam, Mike McKenzie, in a statement.
The communities have reached agreements with other miners operating in the area, including ArcelorMittal, Cliffs Natural Resources, Tata Steel, New Millennium Iron and Labrador Iron Mines, all of which provided financial compensation for the mining activities.