In the News
Indigenous Nations Assert Their Authority and Defend Their Rights
Global Oligarchs Fight over Indigenous Land in Northern Ontario
– K.C. Adams –
A bidding war erupted in the final days of last year over the mineral rights to Indigenous land in northern Ontario known as the Ring of Fire. The winner according to the financial circles of the oligarchy was a mining conglomerate centred in faraway Australia. The seller was yet another mining conglomerate called Noront Resources Ltd. The auction to control the monopoly right to mine the land did not involve the twelve First Nations that live on the land or their allies in the Canadian community.
The Ring of Fire is situated in the second largest peat-land complex in the world which contains an estimated 35 billion tonnes of carbon and a complex of valuable minerals, forests, plant life, animals, fish and fresh water. The transfer of colonial mineral rights put $617 million in cash into the hands of the oligarchs of Noront who, according to colonial right, had already seized control of the mineral deposits found in Indigenous land throughout much of the Ring of Fire.
Luca Giacovazzi, a representative of the winning oligarchs of Wyloo Metals Ltd was ecstatic about gaining possession of the colonial mineral rights of a vast area of Indigenous territory. Speaking to the Financial Post from his home in Perth, Australia he said, “It’s almost like you’re handed the perfect deposit. The best way to think of it is, in our neck of the woods, in western Australia, [this] would have been mined out ten years ago. It would have started mining ten years ago and it would have been at the end of its mine life by now — that’s how high quality the ore body is.”
Giacovazzi expresses the colonial outlook of might makes right to possess and exploit the land without consideration of the social conditions that exist, the rights of the people and the human and natural consequences of his actions. His imperialist aim of maximum profit drives his mania to seize the natural resources and produced wealth of working people to serve his greed in the blink of an eye.
Of course as with any major project, the oligarchs expect pay-the-rich schemes from the federal and provincial governments to build the necessary infrastructure to plunder the mineral resource and to pay a substantial amount for the actual mining means of production. According to the oligarchs more than $1 billion of funds from the public treasuries would have to be invested in roads and other infrastructure and a billion more for the mines and equipment to extract the resource. The global oligarchy is salivating at the prospect of mining out the nickel to feed the production of electric vehicles and to seize the chromite, copper, platinum and palladium from which they will further fatten their already bulging pockets and sustain their privileged lifestyles and global power.
Successive colonial governments have left the Indigenous peoples in the area of the Ring of Fire in desperate conditions, forcing many of the youth to move away. And that has always been the colonial goal: to disappear the Indigenous peoples from the land, to force them to give up their way of life and any thought of modern development under their control and thought material serving their interests, leave their homelands and congregate in the cities so that the global oligarchs can more easily seize, exploit and feast off and destroy their traditional territories. But this has not gone according to plan as thousands of Indigenous people remain and they are determined to assert their hereditary and treaty rights and not be bulldozed out by the colonialists.
An article in the Financial Post states, “In November, Neskantaga First Nation filed a court application in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in Toronto, claiming that it faces multiple crises, including a boil-water advisory and the pandemic, and that it has not been adequately consulted by Ontario provincial officials working on an environmental assessment on a road, which would run through its territory, as part of the Ring of Fire project.
“The application cites Neskantaga’s rights under a number of laws, including Treaty No. 9 — which established hunting, fishing and other rights in the Lowlands area – and was signed more than a century ago.”
The court application states, “Neskantaga First Nation files this Application following years of raising concerns over the potential impacts on its homelands, including: environmental harm to land and water; negative impacts to species relied upon as part of Neskantaga’s culture and way of life; harvesting and fishing rights; and to longstanding Treaty rights owed to Neskantaga under Treaty No. 9, as well as unextinguished Aboriginal rights and title dating since time immemorial.”
The Attawapiskat and Fort Albany First Nations, joining with the Neskantaga, wrote in November to federal Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault calling for a meeting and alerting him that they have declared “a moratorium” on development in the area, asserting their authority under various laws and treaties.
In the letter the Indigenous nations state their objections to an environmental review process that offers them only “tokenistic involvement.” They write with authority that they must be in control of any development as, “We and our neighbouring First Nations in northern Ontario have been the only human inhabitants of the muskeg since time immemorial.”
Canadians stand with the Indigenous peoples in defence of their lands and rights in opposition to the continued colonial invasion, destruction and genocide. Reconciliation and nation-to-nation arrangements must exist in the present and not as apologies for crimes in the past. The first problem to resolve in reconciliation is to bring the living standards in Indigenous territories up to Canadian standards and to recognize the authority of the Indigenous peoples over their territories which are theirs since time immemorial and belong to them by right of being. Discussion on any development must be nation-to-nation and based on the hereditary, treaty and other rights of the Indigenous peoples, especially their right to be.
(TML, posted January 22, 2022. Photo: M. Lehan)