This article came from Wawatay News: http://www.wawataynews.ca/
Fed up with getting no benefits from the resource boom on their traditional territory, Wabauskang First Nation is vowing to make its voice heard.
Wabauskang’s chief and council say they are in a tenuous position of having their traditional territory overlapping the gold mining explosion happening around Red Lake.
Chief Leslie Cameron said his community of 250 members is overwhelmed with having to deal with more than 40 resource companies that have staked claims on Wabauskang traditional territory, and frustrated that the provincial and federal governments are neglecting their duty to consult First Nations on development.
“We are a small community but we still have rights,” Cameron said. “We are the First Peoples here and we never gave up our right to our resources. We’re tired of being pushed to the side.”
Wabauskang went public with its concerns on the eve of the Northwestern Ontario Mines and Minerals Symposium in Thunder Bay. Cameron and his council brought their message to the conference, held on April 3 and 4, as well as to representatives of Ontario’s ministry of northern development and mines.
Cameron and his council pointed blame squarely at the Ontario government, for what Cameron called “putting the interests of mining companies ahead of First Nations.”
“Consultation and accommodation is supposed to happen through the government,” Cameron said. “But these (exploration) permits continue to be given, and the ministry is telling us that there are too many things going on and they don’t have the staff to do appropriate consultation.”
“The ministry has laws in place to protect companies, not First Nations,” Cameron said. “It is coming to us loud and clear that the ministry is working on behalf of industry.”
Wabauskang’s push for greater input over resource development comes after Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (KI) First Nation scored a victory in its opposition to mining on traditional lands. The Ontario government bought out the mining claims of a junior exploration company on March 28, after months of opposition and protests from KI.
Wahgohshig First Nation in northeastern Ontario also has an ongoing dispute with a mining company operating on its traditional lands without consulting the First Nation. That dispute has led to Wahgohshig protests in Toronto and the First Nation’s successful legal action against Solid Gold Resources.
Cameron said his First Nation is well aware of the KI and Wahgohshig situations. He said Wabauskang does not want to take those kinds of drastic actions, but may if its concerns are not addressed.
“It’s been a long fight for us already,” Cameron said. “We’ve always tried to be honourable and talk nice to the companies, but every time we get ignored. We’re tired of being ignored.”
The list of companies operating on Wabauskang territory without having consulted the First Nation includes major gold mining players such as Rubicon and Goldcorp, metal miners such as Northern Iron and gas company Union Gas.
There are over 40 mining companies with new exploration claims on some part of Wabauskang traditional territory.
Under government regulations Wabauskang is given 30 days to provide its concerns once a mining company informs them of upcoming exploration in its territory – a time frame Cameron said is nearly impossible for a band of 250 people to meet considering the amount of activity in the region.
Councillor Martine Petiquan said that while industry continues to explore for and develop resources on Wabauskang land, the community still sees none of the benefts.
“The revenues are leaving our territory, and we’re not getting anything,” Petiquan said. “The pipeline went right by us, the internet went right by us. Everybody else seems to be prospering but us.”
Petiquan said that during the previous gold mining boom around Red Lake, in the 1930s, First Nations people had no voice and consequently received no benefits from the activity. Now, she said, government and industry is trying to exclude First Nations again despite First Nations having claims to the land upheld by Canada’s legal system.