Ontario Region Chief Isadore Day was in Kirkland Lake Friday when Premier Wynne toured Northern College.
The Regional Chief and one other First Nation leader did meet privately with Premier Wynne prior to the tour of the Kirkland Lake Campus. No other politicians, including Kirkland Lake Mayor Tony Antoniazzi got to meet privately with the Premier.
After the tour, Chief Day stayed to answer questions from the media. The Chief said there are challenges concerning exploration and First Nations and that the Ontario Mining Act was 143 years old prior to it being opened up.
“Our First Nations communities gave us very clear direction that they wanted Aboriginal treaty rights respected within the Mining Act,” he said. “We brought that forward and that’s now one of the main reasons why the prospectors and developers are having a challenging time working with First Nations.”
What needs to happen, he said, is the interpretation of what Aboriginal treaty rights mean in the Mining Act, and a recognition from industry that it’s no longer going to be the way it was for 143 years.
“What does that mean on the ground? That is going to be the question. I believe that we are seeing this industry evolve, you are seeing more participation of First Nations in the mining industry and rightfully so,” said Chief Day. “I think what is happening is a certainly natural reaction to the changes to the Mining Act, and I believe there is still a lot of work to do. Our work will be important in that we get things clarified with Ontario, so that way First Nations and the prospectors and developer can do better work together.”
Chief Day believes the consultation process has been looked after in the court cases of 2004 and 2005, now the challenge is accommodation and how that should occur. Putting those issues aside the Chief said, we now have another issue of the United Nations rights of Indigenous people and the principal and requirement of consent.
“What does consent mean? What is the threshold of that? So I believe that there are newer challenges. I would have to say that First Nations see the prospectors and developers, at that first initial starting point could potentially be an environmental issue and concern‚” said Chief Day.
He continued that prospectors, developers and junior mining companies aren’t the people who start the mines. At this point investors come in and make their money. What First Nations are saying, “hang on a second here, we’ve got to get to the starting point, which is the prospectors and developers.”
Chief Day said what is happening is you have people going out there and doing some drill sampling and while it seems un-intrusive, what they are doing is “formalizing and solidifying their tender to that piece of land, which is the tradition treaty land of First Nation People.”
The fact that the treaty that covers the area around Kirkland Lake states that the Crown maintained the mineral rights, is an issue of contention for Chief Day. “Our people would never surrender the land. Why would they do that? I have to declare that is a fallacy, that’s been proved time and time again. Why do we have such a backlog in mining claims, why is there so much government resistance against First Nations issues, when in the court of law we’ve won about 96 percent of cases that have landed before the Supreme court of Canada, or lower court levels. It’s because the government hasn’t held up the honour of the Crown and they have been dishonest, and they have been dishonest about the treaties as well.”
“Treaties are sacred to us. They have somehow become diminished and not relied on by government, but with Section 35, the constitutional protection of those, the government has to work at a very honourable and at least have an upfront way on these treaty issues. They can no longer use this notion that all that was surrendered,” said Chief Day. “It just doesn’t happen anymore. What has to happen is consultation and engagement. This is the weight that has been placed on the shoulders of prospectors and developers. I’ll be frank with you, that is all because of a lot of unfinished business with government and we are now working on those things.”
For the original source of this article, click here: http://www.northernnews.ca/2016/08/16/ontario-regional-chief-day-changes-are-coming