Northern Ontario is brewing a legal battle over the protection of Aboriginal sacred sites and mining rights
As the mining industry in northwestern Ontario heats up, an aboriginal in the Ninth Treaty territory filed for an injunction to stop mineral exploration and protect the sacred areas of its traditional territory.
Some people say that this is a case that will set a precedent in Canada and establish the inherent rights and treaty rights of the indigenous people to protect the Holy Land.
According to the submitted documents, Ginoogaming First Nation believes that Wiisinin Zaahgi’igan is a piece of land with an area of ??about 360 square kilometers, located about 300 kilometers northeast of Thunder Bay, and is its “granary, church, central zone, cemetery and hospital.” Their lawyers.
Since ancient times, the Jinugaming people have hunted, gathered, sacrificed, buried their ancestors and healed their wounds on this land; but Victor Chapais, a councillor and former head of Ginoogaming, said that mining exploration activities threaten the area.
“If someone comes in and destroys Wiisinin Zaahgi’igan, it will never be the same. It will always be damaged-damage to Mother Earth-and these are the things we are trying to protect,” Chapais was interviewed by CBC News Shi said.
The injunction submitted to the Ontario High Court is intended to prevent the two companies from conducting mineral exploration activities in Wiisinin Zaahgi’igan, and argues that the province has failed to meet its constitutional obligations to negotiate and adapt.
While applying for the injunction, Ginoogaming continued to negotiate with the federal and provincial governments on the size of its protected area under the Treaty Land Rights (TLE) procedure.
‘No one ever told us’
However, based on written opinions, at least one company in the province and the ban responded by saying that the indigenous people did not meaningfully participate in the negotiation process.
“In the 40 years I have been here, no one has told us that the place where we deal with claims is a sacred area,” said Michael Malouf, president of Hardrock Extension Inc., one of the companies that Ginoogaming applied to be named. ban.
In an interview with CBC News, Malouf stated that the company has obtained a permit for mineral exploration on a land about 24 kilometers long and 3 kilometers wide near Greenstone, of which about one-third of the land is located in Wiisinin Zaahgi’igan. Inside the Holy Land.
Maluf said he has invested approximately US$7 million in the exploration of the property in the past few decades, and believes that there may be as many as 64 million ounces of gold in the area “in theory”.
“If the ban is approved, we will not be able to perform any work on the property until they [TLE] The court case was resolved. But the problem is that these aboriginal court cases may take years or even decades to resolve. “
If someone comes in and destroys Wiisinin Zaahgi’igan, it will never be the same.-Victor Chapais, former chief and current councillor of Ginoogaming First Nation
When asked what would be the stakes if the ban was approved, Maluf said: “This will cause real damage to exploration in Ontario, because there is no guarantee of the right of use. The contract you signed with the Ontario Mining Law will not take any weight. .”
According to the written materials submitted by the prosecution’s lawyer, Malouf obtained an exploration license for the area in June 2019, and Ginoogaming First Nation did not raise an objection until the license was obtained.
The submitted documents show that the province had previously sent four letters to Ginoogaming within a year, providing Malouf’s notice of applying for a license, but did not receive a response to any of the letters.
The document added that the provincial regulatory agency sought more information about the sacred site from the Aboriginal people and sought to resolve the potential impact, but Ginoogaming “told Ontario that mineral exploration is not possible in the area. [Wiisinin Zaahgi’igan].”
Potential precedent case: lawyer
However, according to legal documents submitted by the lawyers of Ginoogaming, the aboriginal said that since at least 2015, it has “repeatedly” notified the Ontario government of the need to protect Wiisinin Zaahgi’igan, and has not been informed of exploration permits involving the Holy Land. It has been awarded Hardrock Extension until 2019.
OKT Law partner and Ginoogaming lawyer Kate Kempton (Kate Kempton) said in an interview that the indigenous people have been working hard for many years to prevent industrial activities from happening and causing damage to the holy land.
She added that before that, the legacy of boarding schools and other colonial policies aimed at eradicating indigenous languages ??and cultures forced the indigenous people to hide their traditional knowledge and practices.
“When they share details about their own culture, they are afraid of being abused and beaten, or worse,” she said. “It’s only in the last few years, perhaps the past 10 or 15 years, that the aboriginal people have really begun to be more vocal about their cultural details and have an open mind about it.”
Kempton accused the Ontario government of creating the conditions that led to Ginoogaming’s application for the injunction and the resulting legal cases.
She said that the aboriginal people owned land long before the settlers arrived in North America, and therefore had inherent rights, as well as treaty rights to protect cemeteries and sacred sites under Treaty 9. By granting permission, Ontario violated official honor and constitutional consulting obligations.
However, Kempton added that there is no legal precedent to determine whether aboriginal people have the right to protect sacred sites and practice sacred practices in the area.
Similar cases, such as the Supreme Court’s decision on a holy site in the traditional territory of Ktunaxa, British Columbia in 2017, either rely on different legal arguments or debates based on different treaties.
“This will be the first such case in Canada,” she said.
The injunction application was heard in early June, and the parties involved expressed that they hope the trial judge will make a ruling next month.
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