Treaty 3 has cautiously agreed to speak with 60 junior mining outfits who make up Miners United, provided the companies leave “racist” attitudes behind.
Last week’s resolution at Grand Council voted the companies “will not be tolerated” in Treaty 3 territory, due to media reports describing their “revolt” against First Nations consultation. Following a conversation with the Ontario Prospector’s Association, Treaty 3 Grand Chief Diane Kelly said defiant and ignorant approaches to consultation would not be tolerated.
“Those kinds of attitudes are not going to be tolerated by anybody. We’re not just wandering around in the bush looking for blueberries,” Kelly said, pointing to Miners United members’ public statements regarding unwillingness to look for arrowheads on behalf of First Nations communities.
“It’s just fuelling the fire when there’s comments like that in their press release,” she explained. “We’re not against economic activity, we just want to make sure our rights are respected and we’re part of it.”
First Nation consultation is a part of proposed modifications to the provincial Mining Act. Treaty 3 has its own Resource Law and Kelly urged companies to contact her offices to determine which communities could have interests.
“We have rights and responsibilities to this land,” she said. “There’s very little input from First Nations with these regulations. I haven’t seen them yet. There has to be more of a partnership here because otherwise, we get situations like KI (Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug First Nation) and that’s not going to go away.”
Garry Clark is the executive director of the Ontario Prospector’s Association and said he aspires to meet with Kelly face-to-face in the coming months after speaking with her on Tuesday. Clark was pleased to learn Treaty 3 was willing to serve as a point of contact for mineral explorers, who are exasperated from the uncertain provincial parameters of consultation and limited relationships with First Nations communities.
“Part of what we’ve asked the government for is to give us an idea of what is consultation,” he said. “How do we meet consultation? We haven’t been given a guideline or an understanding of what meets consultation requirements. We’re talking about a bunch of entrepreneurial people who are used to working out of the book and on their own terms. If they’re not given the terms, we don’t know where to go.”
First People’s Law released a statement Wednesday that the proposed regulations “contradict the fundamental principles of the duty to consult,” “deny (First Nations) constitutional rights,” and “would codify the state of affairs in the province.”
Lawyer Bruce McIvor said the province is currently delegating consultation to mining companies, meeting with the First Nation afterward to ask if there are outstanding concerns and whether consultation has been achieved. He argued that violates the constitution. Instead of taking a government-to-government approach like those that have provided success and predictability in British Columbia and Manitoba, McIvor argued the proposed changes will perpetuate the status quo in Ontario.
“What Ontario appears to do based on my experience, and what they seem to be intending to do based on the proposed regulations, is not engage in that government-to-government process,” he said. “It’s not that there’s no role for the proponent to play. They have a critical role to play but it’s not to assume the responsibility to discharge the Crown’s responsibility to consult.”