Onkwehonwe Week In Review: June 8, 2016

Controversy in Kanesatake over possible mine re-opening

Nio-can is a mining company that has tried to re-open the dormant niobium mine in Kanesatake territory continuously for the last 10 years. They’ve been mining niobium, which is a chemical element used to strengthen steel used in gas pipelines, welding, nuclear industries and electronics. Last week, Kanesatake Band Council hosted an information session by a new company mining the same product.

Eco-Niobium says that their technology has made it safe to mine niobium again. Eco-Niobium uses geothermal water filtration in their operations and claims that there will be no impact on the land or the water. But many community members disagree.

“I don’t know if I’m for it or against it because this project is so fundamentally different than the one Niocan presented. You need to have new studies and you gotta look at it from a different angle,” Chief Serge Simon said. But some community members vehemently disagree.

“For money? When the money’s gone, what’s left? All we have left is the land,” said community member Weniente.

Simon said that for those living in poverty in the community, the mine could be a financial windfall and he went further to explain how these information sessions are a smart, legal play.

“If you refuse, the proponent could go ahead with his project without consulting you any further or offering a dime,” he said. Protesters say that this information session can be understood as Prior and Informed Consent criteria.

“I’m concerned that it might be viewed as a consultation because people are asked to register their names, which is usually what happens in consultation processes to say, to check off that box that says so many people were consulted or informed,” said Ellen Gabriel, community member. Protesters are also upset with Council for signing a letter of intent with the company.

“It does not force the community into anything. In fact, on the bottom of every page, it says that they project will be subject to the community’s approval,” said Simon. After a history of community unrest and internal conflict, Simon says that he wants a peaceful resolution. If anything, he would like to see the matter go to referendum.


Grassy Narrows youth ejected from legislature for wearing t-shirts saying “Water is Sacred”

A delegation of more than 40 community members from Grassy Narrows First Nation traveled more than 1,700 kilometres for the annual River Run held in Toronto, Ontario. The annual event is a chance to apply pressure to provincial governments to act upon the mercury poisoning that contaminates the water systems in Grassy Narrows territory.

According to a report released earlier this week, it’s said that it is possible for mercury to be safely cleaned up but the government lacks the political will to clean the industrial mess.

“Premier [Kathleen Wynne], will you look at these youth from Grassy Narrows — who are sitting behind you — and tell them that the rivers that make them sick today won’t be cleaned up tomorrow, and will never be cleaned up in their lifetime,” asked Kenora-Rainy River MPP Sarah Campbell.

Despite promises made by Kathleen Wynne to engage as a provincial leader in the active regeneration of a new relationship with indigenous peoples, she refused to commit to cleaning the Wabigoon river systems. Minister of Environment and Climate Change.

Glen Murray responded saying, “We are going to work closely, through the working group that has been established, to ensure that we have proper solutions. The current situation is unacceptable, but we have to make sure — as the premier said — that we’re undertaking efficient, near term action consistent with the leadership and desires of the community and on good science that will actually solve the problem, and not make it worse. I find it unacceptable and I will not let this continue on my watch.”

Following the Minister’s response, the delegation of youth that attended legislature were removed for wearing matching t-shirts that read “Water is Sacred”.


Hunter Tootoo resigns Liberal Cabinet position to seek treatment for addiction issues

In a surprise announcement last week, Hunter Tootoo, resigned his position as the appointed Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and Canadian Coast Guard.

According to a statement released by Tootoo, “As of today, I have resigned as Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard and will be stepping down as a member of the Liberal caucus in order not to distract from the important work of my colleagues.”

Tootoo will be seeking treatment for addiction issues. In Ottawa, on Wednesday, Justin Trudeau told the media that, “This was his own choice after a very difficult situation and we will have nothing further to say on the matter.” The nature of Tootoo’s addiction issues remain unclear. Dominic LeBlanc will assume Tootoo’s former role, in addition to being government House leader. Hunter Tootoo now sits as an independent Member of Parliament. In November 2015, Tootoo was selected in an effort to “present a cabinet that looks more like Canada.”

Jordan Tootoo, NHL’er and Hunter’s cousin tweeted about the difficult situation. “It takes blood sweat and tears to stand up and ask for help from a real man @HunterTootoo admitting is the 1st step. You got this cuz”.  Former Nunavut Premier, Paul Okalik, who also resigned his position this year voiced his support as well. He used the opportunity to remind people that, in Nunavut, there exists a liquor store but there are not any alcohol treatment centres. In March of 2016, Okalik resigned his position in protest of the liquor store being opened in a province wherein alcohol is illegal in 17 of 25 communities.


National Chief Bellegarde warns police to act before MMIW Inquiry yields recommendations

During a “reconciliation inspired gathering” in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde told the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police that they should brace themselves for some blame in the upcoming Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women inquiry.

He said that many will question how police handled the cases and whether they do enough when an indigenous woman is reported missing.

Bellegarde said that it is important for police to tackle the socio-economic divide between indigenous and non-indigenous peoples. Canada ranks sixth in highest living standards internationally, however the ranking is dramatically lowered to the 63rd ranking when including the living conditions of indigenous peoples.

He also urged the police to implement 22 justice-related recommendations from the Truth and Reconciliation Report urging police to “create space” for indigenous Canadians by “opening up their hearts, their minds and their spirits.” Saskatoon Police Chief Clive Weighill, head of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police said that some of the criticisms are justified.

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