I’ve just started a new project working with the Neskantaga First Nation (pronounced Nish-kahn-tga). Formerly known as Lansdown House Indian Band, Neskanta FN is a remote Oji-Cree community in northern Ontario at the headwaters of the Attawapiskat River. The community is deeply worried about how their traditional way of life will be impacted by the nearby Ring of Fire mining projects.
Much more to come over the next few months, but for now here are a few photos from Neskantaga to introduce some of the people of the community.
06.03.2012 – A large and diverse group of over a hundred people gathered outside the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada’s (PDAC) Convention today.
Leading the protests was a group of community representatives from Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (KI) First Nation. KI Councilors are rallying with hundreds of supporters while members of the remote Indigenous Nation mobilize on the ground to prevent mining exploration company Gods Lake Resources (GLR) from desecrating sacred burials on KI Homeland.
“We are mobilized to go to Sherman Lake to protect our land. I cannot allow our graves to be desecrated by a company that is hiring private security to trespass on our Homeland by force. That is no way to do business,” said Chief Morris.
On Sunday the Ontario government unilaterally withdrew 23,181 sq km of land in KI Homeland from mining exploration in response to KI’s longstanding decision to place a full moratorium on industry in KI’s Indigenous Homeland. However, the claims and leases at the heart of KI’s conflict with GLR are unaffected by ON’s move and the dispute over protection of burial sites and sacred landscape remains unresolved.
The MNDM has indicated that GLR intends to access the site this month, and refuses to answer whether GLR is on the land today. KI Chief Morris said in a Feb. 16 youtube video that his community was mobilizing and he feared that the situation would escalate. In a March 1 news release GLR indicated that they are looking to hire private security for their drill program – a potentially explosive move. A KI team is traveling to the Sherman Lake site today to conduct reconnaissance.
Kanawayandan D’aaki – Protecting Our Land
Below is a short video I made recently in collaboration with KI’s Lands and Environment Unit:
The PDAC protest also featured fashionistas from the Mining Injustice Solidarity Network (MISN) who gathered to denounce and ridicule the Canadian mining sector outside of the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) convention today. Walking down an impromptu catwalk in front of the Metro Toronto Convention Center, the protestors showcased “mining company must-haves” like a PR filter for everyday green-washing, cute pandas for controversial pipelines, and a 77 million dollar pacifier for Pacific Rim. The outfits satirized the superficial public relations stunts of the mining industry at home and abroad, while bringing attention to the community rights and basic human rights that are violated by these same companies.
This week, PDAC has been the target for many concerned groups including the Congolese-Canadians, the Ngapuhi Indigenous community from New Zealand, as well as KI. MISN supports communities directly impacted by Canada’s mining industry. “It’s time for Canadian legislation with teeth to hold Canadian corporations accountable locally and abroad and bring an end to weak voluntary regulation,” said Flynn, a member of Mining Injustice Solidarity Network.
Speeches from the protest (Unedited) Part 1/2
Speakers: Cecelia Begg – KI Councilor; Syed Hussan – Toronto KI Solidarity Group; Randy Nanokeesic – KI Counsilor; Syd Ryan – Ontario Federation of Labour;
Speeches from the protest (Unedited) Part 2/2
Speakers: Maryam Adrangi – Council of Canadians; Ramsey Hart – MiningWatch Canada; Steven Chapman – KI Lands & Environment Unit; Syed Hussan – Toronto KI Solidarity Group; Bob Lovelace – retired co-Chief of the Ardoch Algonquin; Richard Anderson – KI Lands & Environment Unit
Please contact me for high res images, audio, and video at:
For more information on KI, please contact:
David Sone: 647-386-1481
For more information on MISN, please contact:
Susana Caxaj: 416-839-8467
Photos from today:
SACRED FIRE BURNING AT QUEEN’S PARK FOR OTTAWA’S SOUTH MARCH HIGHLANDS
(Toronto) Daniel Amikwabe Bernard, Algonquin Firekeeper, kept a Sacred Fire burning at Queen’s Park from Wednesday 9th to Sunday 13th February urging the province to halt tree-clearing and to promote understanding about Ottawa’s most important ecological and cultural heritage areas.
The South March Highlands are one of the most bio-diverse areas remaining in urban Canada, with more than 675 different species of life, including 240 species of wildlife and over 134 different types of nesting birds.
For the past year local citizens, environmentalists and First Nations groups representing over 14,000 people have mounted a vigorous campaign to save undeveloped lands in the 10,000-year-old, ecologically unique, South March Highlands. In the 1970s it was protected as a Natural Environmental Area but urban development has steadily eroded it until less than 1/3rd remains protected. Citizens have actively opposed development since 1981 because the South March Highlands is an old-growth forest having the densest bio-diversity in Ottawa and provides critical habitat for 20 species-at-risk.
In the latest assault on the forest, KNL Developments recently began clear-cutting trees for a subdivision in an area known locally as the Beaver Pond Forest, even though development depends on planned water diversions without Environmental Assessment and a questionable archaeological study.
On Wednesday, Daniel Amikwabe Bernard together with Danny Beaton, of the Mohawk Turtle Clan, started the Sacred Fire to burn as a beacon of hope within the provincial capital to promote understanding and to request support from the Ministry of Tourism & Culture, to issue a Ministerial Order to halt the clear-cutting, in light of the two independent archaeological reviews, and the discovery of potentially significant sites since the 2004 MTC approval.
In an unprecedented recognition of aboriginal religious practices by the Provincial Legislature, permission was granted to keep the Sacred Fire burning day and night. The Sacred Fire is an altar for prayer and visitors were invited to approach respectfully and spend time with the Firekeeper to learn more about the South March Highlands and to discuss our relationship with Mother Earth.
On Sunday, February 13th, the Sacred Fire went out at mid-day. A crowd of about a hundred people came out to the closing ceremonies to show their support.
[A note about these photos: traditional Algonquin teachings consider it deeply offensive to photograph the sacred fire itself. These photos were taken with the express permission of the fire-keeper and are intended to draw attention to the urgency of the situation in the South March Highlands.]
(Click on thumbnails for larger view)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MhSU5heJl5o (cultural and natural heritage video)
http://www.renaud.ca/public/Presentations/2011-01-13-SMH-1-SMH_Overview_v16.pdf (SMH Overview presentation)
Letters of Support (e.g. First Nations leaders, Grandfather William Commanda, David Suzuki Foundation, MP Gordon O’Connor,
MPP Norm Sterling) may be downloaded from http://www.renaud.ca/public/Letters_of_Support/
Dr. McGhee’s comments on the Archaeological Study http://www.renaud.ca/public/Archaeology/2010-08-06-
www.ottawasgreatforest.com (website for the Stewardship Plan to protect the SMH)
www.southmarchhighlands.ca (website for the Coalition to Protect the SMH)
April 7, 2010, Toronto – On World Health Day, members of Grassy Narrows First Nation lead a march of over 250 people to the seat of the Provincial Government at Queen’s Park. The Grassy Narrows People have travelled 1,800 km to deliver their demands for restitution for mercury poisoning whose health effects in the community are worse now than when Ontario first banned fishing in their river 40 years ago, according to a newly translated study by Japanese mercury expert Dr. Harada. The Provincial government has compounded the impacts of mercury on the community’s health, culture, and economy by permitting decades of unwanted clear-cut logging, and mining activity on their territory.
More info: freegrassy.org
Over 170 people gathered outside the Royal Bank of Canada’s Annual General Meeting on March 3rd to protest the bank’s leading role in funding the Alberta tar sands. People concerned with the impact of tar sands projects on First Nations, water quality and the climate came from all over the country to tell RBC to “stop bankrolling the tar sands.”
Inside the shareholder meeting, First Nations Chiefs and community representatives from four different Nations demanded RBC phase out of its Tar Sands financing and to recognize the right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent for Indigenous communities.
Chief Al Lameman of Beaver Lake First Nation, Vice Chief Terry Teegee or the Carrier Sekani Tribal Council, Hereditary Chief Warner Naziel of the Wet’suwe’ten First Nation, and Gitz Crazyboy of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation addressed RBC CEO Gordon Nixon directly about the way tar sands extraction projects have jeopardized their health and their rights.
“RBC’s significant financial relationship with companies pursuing tar sands development activities within our traditional territory and without consent warrants close attention,” said Chief Al Lameman of Beaver Lake First Nation, “RBC should update their policies to include a recognition of Free, Prior and Informed Consent for Indigenous communities; this globally recognized concept was adopted by TD Bank Financial Group in 2007 and is endorsed by indigenous communities across the political spectrum.”
“I pleaded with the board of directors,” said Hereditary Chief Warner Naziel of the Wet’suwe’ten First Nation about his experience inside the RBC shareholder meeting, “I pleaded with the president, with the CEO and the shareholders to seriously consider looking at exactly what the RBC is doing. And it’s an important message; pay attention to what’s happening with the investments and the lending circles that are created from the RBC – it’s destroying our planet! It’s destroying our planet’s ability to sustain us as human beings. And it will continue to do that. I fear that, if we continue allowing banks like RBC to continue what they’re doing, climate change is going to reach its tipping-point, if it hasn’t already.”
“We completely oppose the entire scope of the whole dig-up project,” said Hereditary Chief Warner Naziel of the Wet’suwe’ten First Nation, “we’re not just opposed to the tar sands, we’re opposed to the proposed tanker traffic on the coast, we’re opposed to pipelines, and we’re opposed to the proposed CN transportation of dirty oil from the tar sands to the coast of BC.”
“People in my community are getting sick, people are dying,” said Gitz Crazyboy from the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, “we can’t drink the water, we used to about 10-15 years ago right out of the Athabasca River, no body wants to do that anymore … too many people are dying.”
“People in my community are getting pissed off,” continued Gitz Crazyboy, “we’re getting tired, we’re getting angry, we’re losing faith in the world around us. All of you people here have a responsibility as Canadian citizens, as human beings even, to try to help us out, for our voice to be heard, we haven’t been heard in the last 400 years!”
According to Bloomberg, since 2007, RBC has backed $16.9 billion in loans to companies operating in the tar sands and has earned more than $132 million in underwriting fees. As a result, RBC has enabled the production of the world’s dirtiest oil.
Oil extraction from the tar sands generates three times the CO2 emissions as conventionally extracted oil, and will soon make Canada the biggest contributer to global warming.
Mining oil from tar sands requires churning up huge tracts of ancient boreal forest and polluting clean water with so much poisonous chemicals that the resulting waste ponds can be seen from outer space.
The health impacts to Alberta’s First Nation communities are severe, with cancer rates up in some communities as much as 400 times its usual frequency. In addition, communities living near oil refineries face increased air and water pollution from tar sands oil, which contains 11 times more sulfur and nickel and five times more lead than conventional oil.
For more information on RBC and the tar sands, visit: Rainforest Action Network Toronto
Video of the protest coming soon…
Tensions are on the rise again surrounding the three-year standoff over a first nations land dispute in Caledonia, Ontario. Non native residents of Caledonia recently announced the formation of the “Caledonia Militia” in response to the lack of progress in the land dispute with the intent to “follow established procedures on the use of reasonable force to remove illegal trespassers”. The formation of the Caledonia Militia has caused a great deal of concern over the potential for violent escalation in the already tense situation.
The Douglas Creek Estates is the strip of land at the centre of this dispute. The land in question looks much like any other suburban construction site being developed across Canada, except that members of the Six Nations (Haudenosaunee) Confederacy point out that the land rightfully belongs to them.
This is one of hundreds of indigenous land claims being disputed across Canada. The Six Nations’ claim to this land dates back to 1784 when the British were fighting the Americans during the War of Independence; The British, who had always dealt with the Six Nations Confederacy on a nation-to-nation basis, asked the Six Nations’ to fight alongside them and offered a large area of land in return. The 380,000 hectare tract of land promised to them covered an area of six miles on either side of the Grand River. Today, less than five percent of the land promised to them is in their possession, making up what is now the Six Nations Reserve. The Government of Canada’s official position on the matter is that “the Six Nations validly surrendered all the lands that are not now part of the reserve.”
The women of the Six Nations Confederacy, however, argue that the land in question was never legally surrendered. The Six Nations Confederacy has been called the oldest surviving participatory democracy on earth, and according to their constitution the women are the ‘Title Holders.’ One of the women active at the blockade describes how decisions are made: “There are fifty chiefs who represent the Confederacy Council and they have a clanmother with each chief. It is the people whose voice the chiefs and clanmothers carry. Any decision regarding land comes first from the women, and then to their clans; and through the process of our council, when all are in agreement, or when consensus has been reached, only then does the decision stand,” she says. “In our history of the Haldimand Tract, this has never been done.”
“The idea that British Colonists or their descendents–like Canadians–were the only people who had ‘law’ is a legal fiction,” says Kahentinetha Horn, a Mohawk elder from Kahnawake. Canada “has totally disrespected our laws and agreements to conduct a nation-to-nation relationship.”
Construction stopped on February 28, 2006, when members of the Six Nations moved in to block construction on the site and reclaim the land. They have remained there for over three years now with little progress being made in negotiations with federal and provincial governments. Both federal and provincial governments have been dodging the issue by claiming that the issue lies in the others’ jurisdiction. With the government completely avoiding the issue, the racial tensions continue to mount between the native and non-natives in the surrounding area. Both sides are growing increasingly worried about the potential for violent escalation.
The formation of the Caledonia Militia has been met with strong criticism from the Canadian Union of Public Employees’ (CUPE) First Nations Solidarity Working Group, who argue that the formation of the Caledonia Militia “represents a major escalation in regard to the conflict at Six Nations … [increasing] the possibility of violent conflict between natives and non-natives.” To show their opposition, CUPE’s First Nations Solidarity Group brought busloads of protestors from Toronto, Hamilton, Kitchener-Waterloo, and Guelph to gather outside the Lion’s Club in Cayuga, Ontario, where the first meeting of the militia was being held.
CUPE’s First Nations Solidarity Group presented five reasons why people should support the Six Nations’ struggle:
1. Because their claim is just and right
Canada has a long and shameful history of mistreating First Nations peoples. Canada has broken treaty after treaty and has refused to fulfill its obligations to First Nations peoples, the Six Nations people included. Despite the fact that the Six Nations people have always been (and remain to this day) a national Confederation with whom the British Crown entered into nation to nation agreements, the Canadian government imposed its own “Indian Act” by force upon them and encouraged the illegal sale and theft of land and revenue belonging to Six Nations. Respect for First Nations land and treaty rights and respect for indegenous sovereignty is a mattter of upholding human rights, international law and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Colonization and appropriation of other peoples’ resources is morally wrong and must be opposed, even if we or some of our ancestors have benefited from it.
2. Because the fault lies with the Government, not the people
The government knew that the Douglas Creek Estates lands were contested when it allowed them to be sold. If the government had developed a comprehensive land claims settlement process and had negotiated in good faith with Six Nations from the start, this problem would never have taken the form it has. People from Six Nations occupied the Douglass Creek Estates to stop a housing development from being built on contested land. Now that the situation has been escalated, non natives on and off the Haldimand tract can best resolve this issue by pressuring the Canadian government to establish a fair and comprehensive settlement of all outstanding land claims with Six Nations.
For more information:
More information about the formation of the Caledonia Militia:
http://www.canace.ca/ click on “Race-Based Policing” for background on why some residents of Caledonia feel the need for the Militia
http://www.marchforfreedom.com/smf/index.php?topic=466.0 This is a discussion board where the event was first announced.
http://www.westernstandard.blogs.com/shotgun/2009/06/caledonia-militia-looking-for-a-few-good-men.html This magazine ran a story on the issue. The comments section is quite informative.
http://voiceofcanada.wordpress.com This is the website of Mark Vandermas
http://www.thestar.com/news/ontario/article/652121 This is a Toronto Star article on the issue. If you look at the comments, you’ll see that almost 90 of the 100 are strongly in support of the forming of the militia.
http://caledoniawakeupcall.wordpress.com/2009/06/17/caledonia-militia-draws-criticism-from-cowards/ This is a blogger in Caledonia.