More than 1000 leaders and community members from Northern Ontario Indigenous communities were in Toronto last week to confront Premier Doug Ford and express opposition to a massive mining development.
Ford and his government are pushing forward with plans to mine the so-called Ring of Fire for metals to be used for electric vehicles and the batteries that power them.
The First Nations have joined forces along with numerous supporters to demand respect for Indigenous and environmental rights on their territories — where mining prospectors have staked thousands of new claims since the Conservative government came to power.
The Land Defence Alliance grew out of a mutual cooperation agreement between Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (Ki, or Big Trout Lake), Wapekeka, Neskantaga, Muskrat Dam, and Asubpeeschoseewagong Anishinabek (Grassy Narrows) First Nations.
The Ontario government describes the area as “one of the most promising mineral development opportunities for critical minerals” in the province. It says mining chromite, cobalt, nickel, copper, and platinum, will play a critical role in “transition to a cleaner, sustainable global economy.”
Those at the march told Ricochet that the mining development represents a colonial invasion on Indigenous lands.
“I don’t think people realize the level of destruction that can come to Northern Ontario,” says Tori Cress, an Anishinaabe leader from G’Chimnissing, an island community on the shores of Waaseyaagami-wiikwed (Georgian Bay, Ont.) in Williams Treaty territory.
“We want to prevent the same thing that happened in the tar sands, from happening to our territories.”
The Alliance is protesting Ontario’s antiquated “Free Entry” mining system wherein prospectors stake claims on Indigenous Territories without gaining consent and in doing so violate the United Nations Declaration of Indigenous People (UNDRIP) to which Canada is a signatory.
Article 32.2 of the UNDRIP states that “Free, Prior, Informed consent” is a collective right for Indigenous peoples when it comes to projects and decisions that impact their lands and resources.
“I have yet to see Doug Ford or any members from his government in the communities asking people directly what that community wants,” says Darian Baskatawang, a two-spirit Anishinaabe man of the Loon clan in Whitesand First Nation and lawyer for the First Nations Drinking Water Class Action settlement agreement.
The Alliance of Indigenous communities marched from Grange Park to the lawn of the Ontario legislature.
The day before the march, leaders from each of the five First Nations in the Alliance set up a table on the lawn at Queen’s Park in front of the Ontario Legislature to demand a meeting with Premier Ford. Ford refused their request.
This is not the first time Northern Indigenous leaders travelled to Toronto to meet with Ford — the leaders previously visited the legislature in March to tell Ford they do not give consent to the development.
“This is a big corporation destroying Indigenous lands, forests, natural habitats,” says supporter Sean Kouadio, who was marching with the Alliance. “That’s what’s going to end up killing the world. For what, like a few dollars? It’s not worth it.”