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March 27, 2013 - No. 41

Affirm First Nations Rights and the Rights of All

Demand a Human-Centred Development of
Ring of Fire



Affirm First Nations Rights and the Rights of All
Demand a Human-Centred Development of Ring of Fire
Profile of Ring of Fire First Nations Communities

News from the Front Lines
International Day for Elimination of Racism Commemorated in Ottawa Under Idle No More Banner
Call to Action from Idle No More and Defenders of the Land
Statement of Innu Woman from Uashat Mak Mani-Utenam, on Hunger Strike Since January 1
Idle No More Support for Declaration by Mi'kmaq Grassroots People

Note to Readers


Affirm First Nations Rights and the Rights of All

Demand a Human-Centred Development of
Ring of Fire


Ring of Fire mineral deposit in Northern Ontario.

Like vultures, the mining monopolies are circling above the Ring of Fire territory in James Bay Lowlands of Northern Ontario looking for an unprecedented bonanza. This includes U.S.-based Cliffs Natural Resources which is the biggest monopoly involved. They have the complete backing of the Ontario and Canadian governments.

So said Minister for Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario (FedNor) Tony Clement, the Harper government's point man for the Ring of Fire, at the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada's Annual Conference on March 3 in Toronto (attended by over 125 mining companies from Canada and around the world). "[T]rue to the storied traditions of great finds like the Klondike, the promise of mineral bounty has brought daring miners from far and wide to this remote region," said Clement. He added: "In fact, to date there are 30,000 claims covering the area. Some 30 companies are actively exploring the muskeg and bogs of the Lowlands, spending some $80 million to discover the riches that lie beneath. And what they have found is pretty impressive. The Ring of Fire, very simply, is potentially the biggest mining development Northern Ontario has ever seen."

He further noted the Ring of Fire is "estimated to contain between $30 to $50 billion worth of minerals -- enough to be mined for several decades. In terms of jobs, that translates into potentially over 5,000 direct and indirect positions in Northern Ontario alone, plus significant spinoff benefits throughout the province." What is not said is that the scramble to lay hands on the chromite in the Ring of Fire -- a strategic mineral for the manufacture of stainless steel -- is for purposes of feeding the insatiable appetite of the U.S. war machine.

Further along in his keynote, Clement stated: "Along with our First Nation partners, there are many stakeholders to consider. There are also challenges to overcome, such as infrastructure and environmental considerations" and that "the Harper Government understands that. And I am here today to say that we will do our part to help move this development forward." He pointed out in his speech that "as part of my job as Federal Lead, I will work in coordination with my colleagues at Aboriginal Affairs, at Industry, at Natural Resources and at 12 other federal departments, to ensure we speak with a single voice when we dialogue." This he called the "total government" approach.

Clement signalled the manner of his approach to this "dialogue" when he said in a June 2012 speech in Thunder Bay that the Joint Review Panel Environment Assessments that the First Nations in the Ring of Fire have been calling for before any mining can proceed would only bring up "irrelevant issues" and would hold up the Ring of Fire development. At the time, four of the nine First Nations in the Ring of Fire put out a press release denouncing the Minister and stating that Clement's comments "[set] the relationship between Canada and First Nations peoples back 100 years." Thus, the appointment of Clement to lead the federal government side on the project was a deliberate move by Harper to provoke the First Nations and Canadian people. Since his appointment to the new role, Clement at various Chamber of Commerce and other business meetings as well as in the monopoly media has repeatedly stated that the Ring of Fire project is too important for Canada's prosperity and for its people's "financial security" to be mired in "red tape" and "uncertainty." In this way, additional pressure in brought to bear on the First Nations of the Ring of Fire who are presented as the impediment to Canada's prosperity so as to criminalize them and incite racist hysteria against them.

It is clear as clear can be that the Harper government's capital-centred approach is very detrimental to the environment and the people. Along with the Wynne government in Ontario it is deadly opposed to a human-centred approach to mining development in the Ring of Fire by trying to railroad First Nations and their legitimate concerns and objections. The First Nations in the Ring of Fire face immense pressure to sign deals with the mining monopolies because they experience so many social problems as a result of the ongoing racist colonial treatment at the hands of the Canadian state led by the Harper government and the Wynne government in Ontario. While paying lip service to "consultations" with First Nations and imposing unilateral decisions on matters concerning the environment and long-term consequences of this initiative, these governments disregard the rights of the First Nations to have a meaningful say in the matter of the development of the Ring of Fire which is on their lands.

The capital-centred model has proven to be a disaster both historically and now. Witness the current experience of Attawapiskat First Nations downstream from the Ring of Fire where the DeBeers Victor Diamond Mine is reaping fabulous profits of some $500 million per year. DeBeers has yet to pay royalties or taxes, while the Attawapiskat First Nation, which is experiencing myriad social problems and is demanding a bigger share of the wealth being taken from their lands, gets $2 million for a population of close to 2,000 people! Imagine what is going to happen to the people there when DeBeers wraps up in 12 years or so and leaves an open pit in the contaminated landscape that will be over 200 metres deep and over 2 kilometres wide!

The First Nations and the working class and people of Ontario and Canada are one. The Ring of Fire mineral wealth belong first of all to the First Nations on whose lands it sits, and through them to the Canadian people. The First Nations and Canadian people have to affirm their rights by rejecting the capital-centred approach taken by the Canadian state in service of the mining monopolies and U.S. imperialism in the Ring of Fire. They should demand that a human-centred approach be taken which as a fundamental principle recognizes the right of First Nations to their treaty, hereditary and constitutional rights concerning matters in their territories including mining. This will ensure that First Nations benefit from economic and industrial development on their lands. These rights necessarily include the right to veto policies or projects detrimental to their well-being.

Human-centred mining development recognizes the right of labour (both Native and non-Native) to establish its claim as the key factor in the creation of wealth and does not denigrate labour as a cost of production, while the owners of the mines and other industries usurp the wealth that the workers create. When the working class vests sovereignty in the people, the aim of the institutions is to control decision-making so that it favours the people. Workers and their families must be guaranteed the right to a modern Canadian standard of wages, benefits and working conditions for themselves; and education, health care and other social services for their families. Human-centred mining development recognizes the right of the northern communities to decide their fate as well. This is what is needed to move forward in a harmonious way in the Ring of Fire project, so that the contradictory and competing interests of the various actors and claimants can be sorted out without force and for mutual benefit.

(Sources: www.miningwatch.ca, netnewsledger.com, www.republicofmining.com)

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Profile of Ring of Fire First Nations Communities

There are nine First Nations communities who have direct or indirect claims to the Ring of Fire mineral resources. These communities are organized under the Matawa Tribal Council. The people have lived in that territory for thousands of years before the coming of the colonizers and the settlers to Canada.

The commitments made by the Crown through James Bay Treaty #9 and the Robison Superior Treaty of 1850 have never been upheld by the Crown represented by various Canadian governments up to the present day. The result has been devastating. The communities concerned suffer gross poverty, unemployment, sub-standard housing, and poor health and so on. The high-suicide rate among the youth is indicative of the crisis in these communities.

Most of the youth have to leave the communities to attend high school. Less than one-third of the youth finish high school. Many of the elders in the community were victims of the residential school system and have suffered trauma all their lives that has affected their mental and physical well-being. There are approximately 8,000 people in total living in these communities, over two-thirds of whom are under 25 years of age. The main forms of economic activities are hunting, fishing and seasonal work of various types. Other members of the community are engaged in work with the Band Councils or contract work with outside agencies. Some leave for cities like Thunder Bay and Timmins in search of work.

Information from the Matawa Tribal Council website indicates that presently "the communities are at varying levels of development, both economically and socially, and face many different challenges. In all of the remote access communities, both English and the local native language Oji-Cree are spoken. In the road access communities, some of the younger people only speak English."

The nine First Nations in the Matawa Tribal Council and their accessibility 2006 population figures are as folows:

Road Access

Remote Access (fly-in only)

  • Aroland First Nation
  • Constance Lake First Nation
  • Ginoogaming First Nation
  • Long Lake #58 First Nation
  • Eabametoong First Nation
  • Marten Falls First Nation
  • Neskantaga First Nation
  • Nibinamik First Nation
  • Webequie First Nation

Matawa First Nations Total Populations (as of Sept. 2006)

First Nations

Total Populations

On Reserve

Off Reserve

Aroland

574

328

246

Constance Lake

1,443

710

733

Eabametoong

2,166

1,176

990

Ginoogaming

773

168

605

Long Lac 58

1,203

422

781

Marten Falls

587

282

305

Neskantaga

373

274

99

Nibinamik

404

327

77

Webequie

685

610

75

Total

8,208

4,297

3,911



(Sources: www.matawa.on.ca, www.nan.on.ca)

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News from the Front Lines

International Day for Elimination of Racism Commemorated in Ottawa Under Idle No More Banner

On March 21, First Nations activists, supporters, and visiting Chiefs gathered on Parliament Hill in Ottawa to commemorate the International Day for the Elimination of Racism under the banner of Idle No More. The Day takes place on the anniversary of the Sharpeville Massacre carried out by the racist South African apartheid regime, when 69 protesters were murdered by police.

The action drew attention to the racist nature of the Canadian government's relations with First Nations and in particular the Harper regime's omnibus bills which attack the rights of all Canadians and further the genocidal aims of the state against the First Nations.

The activists' visual demonstration highlighted that the necessary solution to end the current colonial arrangements lies in the affirmation of First Nations' hereditary, treaty, and constitutional rights.

Placards reading "Our Rights"; "Our Treaties"; "Loss of Culture"; "Loss of Land and Water" and others showed how the Canadian government's negation of First Nations' rights produces genocidal outcomes and environmental havoc.

After speeches were given, the placards were flipped to reveal the message Sovereignty Now!, a bold expression of the necessity to negate the negation of First Nations' rights enforced by the Canadian state.

Bridget Tolley of Families of Sisters in Spirit said, "I've been working to try and help the families of missing and murdered women for approximately 10 years now. I've seen a lot of racism. And today is a day that we talk about this to try to end racism. In my mother's case, the police said that my mother died because she was a drunken Indian. This has got to stop. We're not drunken Indians, we're not drugged-up Indians, we're not all sex workers, we're human beings that want justice! Today we honour the missing and murdered women that went through all this -- all the violence, all the racism that have been done to us. We want to end this. We want justice! We are normal people who want to be, like anyone else. We're not asking for much. We just want to be equal and to support each other and to live happy. We just want to take care of our sisters and stop this racism against all of them. Not only the police are involved, the government, everybody, knows that this is happening to Canada. Stop ignoring us, Harper, we're here, we're here to stay, and we're not going nowhere!"

Gladys Radek, whose niece Tamara has been missing since 2005, also spoke. She said "I'd like to thank the Algonquin Territory for allowing me to speak on their land. I'm originally from Gitksan Wet'suwet'en territory in northern British Columbia. I raise awareness about the missing and murdered women first of all along the Highway of Tears where my niece went missing. It's been over seven years since she's gone missing. And when she went missing I started researching and I realized that racism is alive and well in Canada. We have over 3,000 missing and murdered Aboriginal women across this country. It's a lack of political will and it's a lack of proper policing that these women are disappearing and being murdered. We've got pedophiles and serial killers running rampant across this country. In BC right now we have five serial killers. And when are we going to say enough is enough? Our women are loved. Our women are valued. Our women are sacred as the life-givers of society and we cannot survive without them. We need to eliminate the racism for our women. That's how they're trying to wipe us out. They're committing silent genocide, and enough is enough!"

Clayton Thomas-Muller of Defenders of the Land said "There's so much going on all across this land that they call Canada. There's so much going on right now in terms of the ripping off the scabs of the sores that corrupt and make this country nasty. Idle No More has been really uncovering all the racism that still lurks, systemically, individually and interpersonally here in Canada. And we see it every single day with every single Conservative Senator or right-wing pundit that continues to fall under the force of the love of this movement of Idle No More. When we look at these messages here, what our main message is today, and I would add also for the Families of Sisters in Spirit: Sovereignty Now! There's a big message here today, on this Day to Eliminate Racism. The issues here in Canada, the racism that Idle No More is exposing, and the agenda of this federal government, is all coming to the surface. And Canada is facing, and going through a process of reconciliation whether or not they want to or not. But Idle No More will drag this country kicking and screaming through a process of reconciliation and healing."

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Call to Action from Idle No More and
Defenders of the Land

Idle No More has sparked an awakening of Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples internationally in support for democracy, human rights and environmental protections. In three short months, the movement has succeeded in raising global consciousness through education, cultural resurgence, and democratic political activism. We have shaken the foundations of inequality in Canada, and invited communities to join in a movement for social and environmental justice. We now need many more people to stand with us.

The Harper government's agenda is clear: to weaken all collective rights and environmental protections, in order to turn Canada into an extraction state that gives corporations unchecked power to destroy our communities and environment for profit. Harper is trying to extinguish Indigenous Peoples' Inherent,

Aboriginal and Treaty rights to their territories, because these rights are the best and last protection for all Canadians.

Idle No More has confronted these policies, and Harper supporters such as ex-Minister of Aboriginal Affairs John Duncan, suspended Senator Patrick Brazeau, resigned minister Peter Penashue, and Tom Flanagan have been called into question by grassroots people.

Idle No More will help rebuild the nation-to-nation relationship that is the foundation of this country. This means deepening democracy, respecting Indigenous sovereignty and protecting the land and waters from further resource extraction without the affected Indigenous Peoples' free, prior, and informed consent.

We know it will take a lot more to defeat Harper and the corporate agenda. But against the power of their money and weapons, we have the power of our bodies and spirits. There is nothing that can match the power of peaceful, collective action in the defense of people and Mother Earth.

Idle No More and Defenders of the Land, a network of Indigenous communities in land struggle, have joined together to issue this common call for escalating action. Our demands are clear and in accordance with the principles of coexistence and mutual respect between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Peoples. We demand that Canada, the provinces and the territories:

1. Repeal provisions of Bill C-45 (including changes to the Indian Act and Navigable Waters Act, which infringe on environmental protections, Aboriginal and Treaty rights) and abandon all pending legislation which does the same.

2. Deepen democracy in Canada through practices such as proportional representation and consultation on all legislation concerning collective rights and environmental protections,and include legislation which restricts corporate interests.

3. In accordance with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples' principle of free, prior, and informed consent, respect the right of Indigenous peoples to say no to development on their territory.

4. Cease its policy of extinguishment of Aboriginal Title and recognize and affirm Aboriginal Title and Rights, as set out in section 35 of Canada's constitution, and recommended by the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples.

5. Honour the spirit and intent of the historic Treaties. Officially repudiate the racist Doctrine of Discovery and the Doctrine of Terra Nullius, and abandon their use to justify the seizure of Indigenous Nations lands and wealth.

6. Actively resist violence against women and hold a national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, and involve Indigenous women in the design, decision-making, process and implementation of this inquiry, as a step toward initiating a comprehensive and coordinated national action plan.

Calls to Action

- March 21st International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination: We are calling for decentralized actions across the country.

- April 22 Earth Day: Indigenous Peoples and Indigenous rights are in many cases the best defence against environmental destruction by unchecked greed and industrial development. This Earth Day we are calling for nationwide autonomous local protests -- and a mass non-violent direct action in Ottawa to be announced soon -highlighting the importance of Indigenous rights in combating the Harper and corporate agenda. We are asking people to prominently include messaging on Indigenous and Treaty rights in their actions.

- Sovereignty Summer: Indigenous communities have the right to determine the development on their traditional and treaty territories. In defending their right to say "No" to unwanted development, First Nations like Barriere Lake, KI, Grassy Narrows and many others are advancing alternatives that help us re-imagine our relationship to the environment. Across the country, people are increasingly supporting First Nations who are trying to protect lands, waters and air for everyone, and to win recognition of marine protections, of sustainable forestry, of local, just economies, and of the principle that we must respect the environment that we are a part of.

We are calling on non-Indigenous people to join Indigenous communities in coordinated non-violent direct actions in the summer. Alternatives will only come to life if we escalate our actions, taking bold non-violent direct action that challenges the illegitimate power of corporations who dictate government policy.

To add your First Nation, organization, or yourself (if you are Indigenous) as a signer, send an email to defendersoftheland@gmail.com or idlenomoremedia@gmail.com.

For list of signatories, click here.

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Statement of Innu Woman from Uashat Mak Mani-Utenam, on Hunger Strike Since January 1

With regard to the recent conduct of both the Harper government and Premier Pauline Marois, namely of taking decisions unilaterally, without the consent of First Nations. I, Jeannette Pilot, an Innu woman from Uashat Mak Mani-Utenam [located near Sept-Îles, Quebec -- TML Ed.], have been on a hunger strike since January 1, 2013, which means seventy-two days in total [as of March 2]. On March 11, I will stop hydrating myself -- a complete fast. I am ready to go to the end so that the rights of the First Nations are recognized, and to fight alongside the IDLE NO MORE movement for the people and the future generations. I demand that Harper's Conservative government stop its modification of certain laws and its imposition of others without first consulting the people who will be affected by them. Here is the list of the laws I am opposed to:

- Navigation Protection Act
- Canadian Environmental Assessment Act
- First Nations Financial Transparency Act
- Bill C-45 on employment and growth (2012)
- Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights Act
- First Nations Elections Act
- Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act
- Act to amend the Indian Act and to provide for its replacement
- An Act to amend the Interpretation Act (non-derogation of aboriginal and treaty rights)
- First Nations Self-Government Recognition Act

I deplore the fact that the Harper government has modified laws without consulting the indigenous nations. Considering that these nations have the right to self-determination, based on international law which recognizes the right of peoples to choose freely their political system, independently of any outside influence, we demand that all the amendments and modifications to the laws be suspended, and that a consultation and a referendum are held in all the bands that have signed no treaties and whose lands are unceded.

Gaz Métro has finally started moving with its project to extend the 450km-long gas pipeline that runs between Jonquière and Sept-Îles; they've already already spent $10 million on it. The chiefs and their counsellors had technical consultations with the company in 2012. I demand that this project be suspended immediately. It is not acceptable to pursue that project without consulting the Innu people via referendum. I demand that both the band councils and the government put an end to this project if the majority of Innu are against it.

I demand that any mining projects in the province of Québec be suspended. Before mining projects for uranium or anything else are initiated, indigenous nations that are impacted by the project must be consulted in a referendum, and the band councils and the government should stop the projects if the majority of people are against them.

I demand a moratorium on the massive deforestation of the boreal forest in Nitassinan and the province of Québec. The state of the forests, the pace of deforestation, and the carelessness of the band councils and the government call to mind the tragedies in Malaysia or the Amazon. To satisfy the companies' insatiable thirst, the government is still issuing logging permits. These permits could endanger fragile ecosystems and threaten indigenous peoples' traditional lifestyles. Because, as Innu, we must preserve the link between Pappassik and Atik, we condemn the fact that the government of Québec, the government of Newfoundland and Labrador, and the federal government of Canada are threatening our age-old relationship with Atik by making Labrador a forbidden area, forbidding us from hunting caribou on that territory. I demand that this ban be lifted and that we will be allowed our right to practice subsistence hunting on all of Nitassinan. For this demand from the people, I hope you grant both understanding and amnesty.

(Idle No More)

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Idle No More Support for Declaration by
Mi'kmaq Grassroots People

On March 18,  and organizers of Idle No More issued a statement expressing their support for the declaration made by the Mi'kmaq grassroots people in their resistance to the impending framework agreements under the premises of economic opportunities.

"Drastic measures have been implemented with the declaration of a fast by a citizens assembly in the Mi'kmaq community comprised of members from each of the neighboring provinces. The lead fasters, who will consume only water throughout the duration, will be Idle No More organizer Shelley Young, a member of Eskasoni First Nation and Jean Sock, a member of the New Brunswick reservation Elsipogtog." (Mi'kmaq Press Release)

Idle No More points out, "The negotiation tables implemented through the Harper government are contrary to the Treaties, Indigenous sovereignty, and are a threat to the environment. The inherent rights of Indigenous peoples are the last line of defense for the collective rights of all Canadians. The drastic choices people are making to resist these policies are reflective of the times that are upon us. The Harper government policies reveal that the people no longer come first. We need to focus on protecting Indigenous sovereignty and our environment. Leadership need to know that when they stand with the grassroots people, we will fully support them. This can be the beginning of what we seem to have lost. Now is the time. We want to thank the leadership who have decided not to support Harpers policies and are working on building alternatives."

(Idle No More)

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Note to Readers

TML Daily will not be published on Friday, March 29 and Monday, April 1. Publication will resume on Tuesday, April 2.

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