End Illegal Mining and Resource Extraction in Northern Ontario!

Thousands Rally at Queen's Park to Demand Ford Government Respect Indigenous Peoples' Jurisdiction

On September 27, some 6,000 -- mainly young -- people, including participants from Indigenous communities in Northern Ontario participated in a three-hour march and rally at Queen's Park to demand that the Ford Progressive Conservative government stop the illegal mining and other resource extraction activities on Indigenous lands which do not have the peoples' consent.

The previous day, the Chiefs and representatives from Asubpeeschoseewagong (Grassy Narrows First Nation), Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (Big Trout), Muskrat Dam, Neskantaga and Wapekeka First Nations, who earlier in the year created the Land Defence Alliance as a united force to defend their interests, sought a one-on-one meeting with Premier Ford to get him to sign a declaration that no more mining and other activities will proceed in their territories without their consent. The Premier refused to meet with them.

Prior to the march, Chief Rudy Turtle of the Grassy Narrows First Nation pointed out that both the Ford government and the Trudeau government in Ottawa have refused to listen to the demands of his community that illegal mining claims and forestry in their territory be ended. He pointed out that both levels of government have also refused to take the measures necessary to decontaminate the English-Wabigoon River of mercury and end the illness and disease it has caused the community.[1] Chief Turtle called on all the Indigenous Peoples and Canadians to step up their support for his community so that they can get justice.

Hundreds of people along the route of the march, from Grange Park to the legislature at Queen's Park, expressed their support for the action with some joining in.

At Queen's Park more speeches were given. One of the speakers was Cecilia Begg, a band counselor from Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug, who thanked everyone for their support and noted that several youth from their community had travelled to Toronto for the action. She said that the next generation are taking up their social responsibility to defend the land and waters which the people had depended on for their being for thousands of years.

Chief Chris Moonias of Neskantaga First Nation said that his community and other members of the Land Defence Alliance will resist any further moves by the Ford government to proceed with the Ring of Fire project without their consent. He denounced the "corrupt" Ford government for using "divide and conquer" tactics by promising to bring jobs and prosperity to the Indigenous Peoples in the Ring of Fire territory.

Chief Moonias pointed out that First Nations who have had mining development in their territory remain impoverished, still have no housing, no jobs and no prosperity. He noted that Neskantaga First Nation has been under a 28-year boil water advisory, the longest in Canada, and nothing has been done to fix this problem. He said that his community is not averse to development but not without their full participation in it, not without their Free, Prior and Informed Consent.

Erin Riley-Oettl, a human rights lawyer with Amnesty International, told the rally that when Bill C-15 was passed in the summer of 2021 to adopt into Canadian law the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the principle of Free, Prior and Informed Consent was deliberately left out. It was replaced with "the right to be consulted," she said, pointing out that "Consulting is not consent. Consent is the right to say, 'No.'"

The participants ended the rally in high spirits, determined to stand together against the colonial high-handedness of the Ford government and demand that the rights of the Indigenous Peoples in Northern Ontario and across Turtle Island be respected.

This article was published in
Volume 53 Number 9 - October 2023

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