Archive | Aboriginal and Inuit Non-Mining Issues

Indigenous law banishes a giant B.C. mine – by Elizabeth McSheffrey (National Observer – April 21, 2017)

The moment you step onto Stk’emlúpsemc te Secwépemc land in southern British Columbia, according to Chief Ron Ignace, you are a beggar. As an outsider, you have no rights and you’ve strayed away from your home and family. You are considered a poor person, he tells National Observer, and you are beholden to the First Nations on whose territory you stand.

His message takes aim at anyone who wants to do business or travel on his nation’s land, be they tourists, government, companies, fishers, or boaters.

“The days of colonial authoritarianism are over,” he says. “It’s time for Canada to recognize that we are nations, as nations we have rights to our land, and if we are approached honourably, we can sit down and come to a fair and just conclusion.” Continue Reading →

[First Nations water] Unsafe to drink – by Matthew McClearn (Globe and Mail – February 21, 2017)

A Globe review shows water treatment plants are failing on reserves across Canada. For every system the government fixes, plenty remain in a shambolic state

Several days each week last fall, water trucks left Sudbury and drove 130 kilometres west to the Serpent River First Nation, a reserve on Lake Huron’s north shore. There, they emptied about 18,000 litres into a reservoir to supplement the community’s water treatment plant. John Owl, the plant operator, said it ran 24 hours a day and still could not provide enough water to meet the needs of the reserve’s 350 inhabitants. Not that they could drink it – it is subject to a drinking water advisory.

A snowstorm in December shut the Trans-Canada Highway, blocking the water shipments. A pipe ruptured in the crawlspace of an abandoned home, draining about four truckloads of water. And as temperatures dropped, the plant’s output fell. “As the water gets colder, it gets denser and it’s harder to push through the filters,” Mr. Owl explained.

Serpent River’s woes resemble those of the 90 other Canadian reserves under drinking-water advisories. But there is a cruel twist: This water treatment plant is barely a year old. Continue Reading →

Former First Nations chief stakes legal claim on mining minister’s property – by Justine Hunter (Globe and Mail – January 24, 2017)

VICTORIA — A former First Nations chief who has battled the B.C. government over its mining policies says she has legally staked a claim on the private property of Minister of Energy and Mines Bill Bennett.

It took less than an hour for Bev Sellars, a lawyer and former chief of the Xat’sull First Nation at Soda Creek, to file an application with the province to become a free miner and then to use the ministry’s online registry to stake her claim for the right to explore a chunk of land that includes Mr. Bennett’s Cranbrook home.

“I really didn’t believe it was that easy, I was thinking, ‘holy smokes, this is crazy,’” Ms. Sellars said in an interview. Mr. Bennett declined an interview request on Tuesday, while he was attending a mining conference in Vancouver. Continue Reading →

Nunavut regulator requests updated FEIS on rejected Nunavut gold project [Sabina Gold] (Nunatsiaq News – January 24, 2017)

The Nunavut Impact Review Board has launched its re-assessment process for Sabina Gold and Silver Corp.’s Back River gold project with a Jan. 23 request to the mining company for updates to its Final Environmental Impact Statement, or FEIS.

“The NIRB believes that provision of an updated FEIS document or addendum by the proponent would be the most effective means of providing additional information and highlighting existing information regarding the effects assessment for the Back River Project…” the NIRB’s Jan. 23 letter said.

The NIRB confirmed its plans Jan. 24 to schedule a public hearing to consider the updated FEIS document. The letter comes on the heels of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett’s Jan. 12 letter, which sent the NIRB’s final public hearing report on the project back to the review board. Continue Reading →

From housing to health, Trudeau’s rhetoric on First Nations out of step with reality, critics say – by David Akin (National Post – November 23, 2016)

OTTAWA — Under fire from his political opponents for not doing enough for the welfare of aboriginal children, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was indignant in reply.

“The fact of the matter is that no government has done more to repair the relationship with indigenous Canadians than this one, with $8.4 billion over the next five years in building infrastructure, supporting young people, and supporting indigenous communities,” Trudeau told the House of Commons Tuesday.

And yet, a growing number of indigenous leaders are coming to the conclusion that such lofty rhetoric is sounding increasingly hollow, that it does not match the record of the Trudeau government’s first year in office. Continue Reading →

Isolation a barrier to exposing sexual abuse, incest on reserve: Bellegarde – by Kristy Kirkup (Canadian Press — Nov 13 2016)

OTTAWA — At night, he would arrive in Corey’s room by crawling through the window next to the bunk bed where she slept. She knew from the smell when he was there. By day, she endured different hands, sometimes under the most mundane circumstances — once, she recalls, while in the kitchen eating lunch. He pulled down her underwear and started fondling her. He left money on the table.

They were family members, these two predators — their unwanted touch impossible to escape for a young girl living on a remote First Nation in British Columbia.

That isolation, a fact of life for many Aboriginal Peoples, is a pernicious barrier to the essential goal of exposing the scourge of indigenous sexual abuse and incest, says Perry Bellegarde, the national chief of the Assembly of First Nations.

Bellegarde is pleading with chiefs to confront the problem head-on. Continue Reading →

Residents report rashes, stomach pains amid water crisis on northern Ontario reserve [North Caribou Lake FN] – by Tanya Talaga (Toronto Star – November 14, 2016)

For the past seven days, nearly 230 households in a remote northwestern Ontario community have gone without clean drinking water and proper sewage. There are four ruptures in the main line that delivers water from a treatment facility to houses in North Caribou (Weagamow) Lake First Nation, said Chief Dinah Kanate. North Caribou is a 45-minute flight north from Sioux Lookout.

North Caribou’s water treatment staff have been working around the clock to try to fix the situation. They need to keep water moving through the line for fear of contamination, said Kanate, but she fears the water is unfit for use. Residents are using the water to wash clothes and bathe in. Samples were taken and flown out to health authorities on Sunday.

“If the pressure is lost, the water will become contaminated,” said Kanate. “What we have now is young children and adults have rashes. Eczema is flaring. People are complaining of stomach pains. Some kids were jumping in the showers and they are coming out with sores.” Continue Reading →

Replace hidebound INAC with a 21st century ministry – by Doug Cuthand (Saskatoon StarPhoenix – November 4, 2016)

We witnessed the unseemly sight this week of Parliament voting unanimously to force Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada to obey an order by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal. It was a low point in the administration of the First Nations file, but it also was very revealing of a federal department that considers it a law unto itself.

On the same day media reported that INAC had lapsed more than $900 million that had been allocated to be spent on First Nations.

The motion, moved by New Democrat MP Charlie Angus, called on the Liberal government to comply with all the orders made by the human rights tribunal, which had ruled that Ottawa was practising racial discrimination by underfunding child welfare programs. The motion also ordered INAC to “immediately invest” $155 million in child welfare and develop a financial plan for future years. Continue Reading →

‘We’re already doing it’: Quebec company touts wind power in Canada’s Arctic – by Sima Sahar Zerehi (CBC News North – September 20, 2016)

‘Renewable energy is available today and can be installed in the Arctic,’ says Quebec’s Tugliq Energy

A company that has designed a wind turbine in Nunavik, in northern Quebec, says the same technology would work in Nunavut and other remote areas of the Arctic. ugliq Energy says its wind turbine has cut costs at Glencore’s Raglan Mine, lowered the mine’s use of diesel, and minimized its carbon footprint. Tugliq now wants to bring the same technology to mine sites in Nunavut, such as TMAC’s Hope Bay mine, and communities across the North.

“We’re already doing it — renewable energy is available today and can be installed in the Arctic,” said Laurent Abbatiello, CEO of the Quebec-based Tugliq Energy. “It is feasible technically and there’s also strong business cases in many occurrences where it’s going to be profitable.”

Raglan Mine is a large nickel mining complex in the Nunavik region of northern Quebec, approximately 100 kilometres south of Deception Bay. Continue Reading →

Signs of mercury poisoning in Grassy Narrows youth, say Japanese experts – by David Bruser and Jayme Poisson (Toronto Star – September 20, 2016)

The young generations of Grassy Narrows and another nearby First Nation community have a “surprisingly” high rate of mercury poisoning symptoms, according to leading Japanese researchers.

The research team, which examined dozens of people of all ages in both communities during a 2014 trip, found that nearly all those tested had sensory disturbance — a telltale sign of mercury poisoning that includes a loss of sensation in the hands or feet and around the mouth. That rate is “extremely high,” according to a report released by the researchers Tuesday.

“This is a new finding,” Dr. Masanori Hanada told the Star through a translator. “I think Canadian doctors and Canadian officials should start looking at (this issue).” His team is a world leader in the study of mercury poisoning. Continue Reading →

Canada’s First Nations have enjoyed a long and fruitful association with the monarchy – by John Fraser (National Post – September 12, 2016)

The following is an edited excerpt of a talk given by John Fraser at an exhibition of Charles Pachter’s paintings at the historic London Charterhouse, the only extant building left in London where Queen Elizabeth I held court, on Aug. 18.

In the beginning, in Canada, there was just the aboriginal population. Then the French came at the start of the 17th century and, in the name of the king of France, set up trading relations with the aboriginal people, who, soon enough, turned into three main groups: the ones we now call First Nations, the Inuit in the Far North and the Metis — or people of mixed race — all along the trading routes.

The French developed a variety of informal treaties, or trading understandings, with the aboriginal population. Then the British came in the name of their king and defeated the French in 1759. That produced some revamped loyalties with the First Nations, as well as a whole new set of trading treaties. This time, however, there were royal proclamations, endorsed and passed by the British Parliament, many of which still stand as law in Canada. Continue Reading →

Watay Power out to electrify Northwestern FN communities – by Ian Ross (Northern Ontario Business – September 1, 2016)

A First Nations-owned transmission company is the Ontario government’s developer of choice to hook up remote communities in northwestern Ontario to the provincial power grid.

Wataynikaneyap Power LP (Watay) was selected in late July to be the transmitter to build a 1,800-kilometre network to bring power to more than 10,000 people in 17 remote communities who’ve been reliant for decades on expensive and unreliable local diesel generation.

For the last eight years, Watay and its chair Margaret Kenequanash have been leading the charge to make the $1.35-billion project a reality. They’ve steadily grown their ownership base to 22 First Nation communities and skillfully recruited transmission specialists Fortis Ontario and RES Canada to join their consortium.

“I think it’s exciting that we’re able to bring clean energy to our communities and that we can move forward with the development that’s required to build the line,” said Kenequanash. Continue Reading →

Time for Real Action on Boil Water Advisories in Ontario – by James Murray ( – August 29, 2016)

THUNDER BAY – EDITORIAL – The road to hell it is said is paved with good intentions. Grassy Narrows First Nation along with many many other First Nation communities across Ontario are experiencing their own special branches of hell.

Water – one of the very basic needs for survival on earth in far too many communities in Ontario is not found in lakes and stream but rather in expensive bottles that are flown in or driven in to the North. This cost takes away money from other vital community needs.

Our “True North strong and free” is not clean enough to allow the people living across the North to have potable drinking water in their communities. It isn’t a message that the Government of Canada shares on any tourism brochures. Likely the reality is overall, very few tourists fly into northern Ontario or Northern Canadian First Nation communities.

In some communities, boil water advisories have been in place for up to twenty years. Think of that simple fact for a moment. For two decades, people have been unable to go to their kitchen sink, turn on a facet and enjoy a drink of water. Continue Reading →

Why is Canada denying its indigenous peoples clean water? – by Amanda Klasing (Globe and Mail – August 30, 2016)

Amanda Klasing, a senior researcher at Human Rights Watch, specializes in the right to clean water.

“She likes to take a bath, but [the water] irritates her skin,” Susan said of her active two-year-old daughter. When the little girl was 18 months old, Susan started to notice rashes all over her daughter’s legs. “I thought it was something from the grass,” she said. Instead, a doctor informed her that the baby’s rash was probably from her water. Susan can’t bathe her daughter at home now; she takes her to a daycare centre or relative’s house.

Susan lives in Grassy Narrows First Nation in Ontario, where I spoke to her and other families in February to learn about living under a “do not consume” water advisory.

The water in the well that supplies her home is contaminated with uranium; water trucked in from a local treatment plant to fill a cistern at her house has dangerous levels of a cancer-causing byproduct that comes from treating dirty source water. Continue Reading →

INVESTIGATION: First Nations Water systems at risk – by Matthew McClearn (Globe and Mail – August 29, 2016)

Despite an election promise by Justin Trudeau to eliminate boil-water advisories on reserves within five years, data suggest the federal government will fall short of the objective without significant changes in its approach to rectifying problem, Matthew McClearn reports

One-third of First Nations people living on reserves use drinking water systems that threaten their health, an investigation by The Globe and Mail has found.

Roughly 57,000 people living on 101 reserves across Canada obtain water from treatment plants and pipe networks the government deem to be “high risk,” an analysis of federal data shows. Although these systems are not necessarily producing unsafe water today – some are, some aren’t – the government fears they could fail under adverse conditions, such as a sudden deterioration in source-water quality. Another 95,000 are served by “medium risk” systems located on 167 reserves.

Combined, that amounts to roughly one-third of the approximately 462,000 people living on reserves – or about 30 communities the size of Walkerton, Ont. In 2000, bacterial contamination in Walkerton’s water system sickened more than 2,300 people and killed seven. Although the Walkerton tragedy prompted wide-ranging regulatory changes across Canada, this hasn’t resulted in safe water for many reserves. Indeed, many First Nations water systems remain in shambolic condition. Continue Reading →