Mining, especially exploration, has been a huge industry in Canadian history for well over a century. The mining industry is more than just mines. As stated in www.minescanada.ca “Mining is a community of Canadians employed in a range of jobs”, which includes trickledown effect into our retail and business sector. Mining Canada also indicates mineral and metal industries are a major generator of employment for all Canadians. This data states mining is the industry with the highest proportion of Indigenous workforce. Mining jobs are high paying with good company benefits, making them highly sought-after opportunities, when it’s done right!
Ginoogaming, a First nation in Treaty 9 (northern Ontario) is elated, as it has received a ruling for an injunction to temporarily stop mineral exploration by Hardrock Extension Inc.
“We are celebrating the judge’s ruling and it’s a huge relief, but our work is far from over to safeguard Ginoogaming sacred land.” states Kate Kempton, a lawyer and partner with OKT Law. Kempton went on to explain, “Wiisinin Zaahgi’igan, is a sacred area and respectfully called “the breadbasket, church, heartland, hospital and it’s graveyard”. When translated, Wiisinin Zaahgi’igan means “The place where you get food”.
When the people of the Ginoogaming territories are asked what this sacred land means to them, they will quickly explain it is their heart and soul. They worship and commune with the land and the Creator there.
The presiding judge, Susan Vella stated that the court is not without understanding of the situation mining companies find themselves in. Vella said she sees the prospecting companies as playing monkey in the middle between the Crown and Ginoogaming, who are sitting in a stalemate position. The province issued permits to Hardrock Extension Inc. for an area 24 km long by 3 km wide. Wiisinin Zaahgi’igan sacred land lays in approximately 1/3 of that area.
The permits allowing exploration to begin were issued in 2019. Michael Malouf, President of Hardrock Extension Inc. previously told CBC News in an interview that his company had invested nearly $7 million into exploration in that same area over the last few decades. In his statement after Judge Vella’s decision, he commented that this injunction in his opinion, is the “kiss of death for the mining exploration industry”.
In Kate Kempton’s opinion the permits should never have been issued in this area at all. At this point in time, she feels uncertain as to how underlying issues can be addressed. The lawyer was adamant when she remarked, “This is not a situation where tweaking around the edges of a project is something that will accommodate or address the First Nation’s concerns.
Judge Vella gave January 2022 as the timeframe for all parties to reconvene, at which time she will grant the interlocutory injunction originally sought by Ginoogaming or “Do something else”. She also ordered Ginoogaming into meaningful consultation to collect the information needed to support and identify the cultural and spiritual locations, the key areas for medicinal harvesting, hunting and fishing in Wiisinin Zaahgi’igan. She went on to say the injunction is only temporary, as she believes it is premature to consider an interlocutory be granted until more information is gathered.
In response Kate Kempton said “It’s a decision that is quite perplexing and could be a long legal battle ahead unless the Crown acknowledges it should never have issued the exploration permits. They will have to offer a buy-out or retire the mineral claims in the sacred area.”
This case, in the opinion of some, could set a precedent in Canada that would establish the inherent and treaty right of First Nations to protect all sacred areas. Change is necessary there is no doubt, while industry is still needed to provide for daily existence. Canada, as an entity will have to work towards solid understanding and unequivocable respect when finding middle ground between First Nations treaty and inherent rights and industry. Government and industry must work together with Indigenous peoples, so all can benefit from traditional knowledge and local sources of information improving the design and execution of projects. With foresight and collaboration more Indigenous-owned businesses can pursue mineral exploration and development themselves or provide services to mineral projects. This can build trust, lead to opportunities for Indigenous communities, and advance the process of reconciliation.
Questions will need answers, followed by agreements that bring about understanding and future economic benefit. Community Liaison Officers employed within It’s Time For Change platform, will be ready to assist in bringing about inclusion and connectivity. This platform will also bring together remote areas in an online presence, giving equal economic growth regardless of where the Indigenous community is located.
It’s Time For Change believes whole heartedly there is a holistic way to find economic inclusion between industry and “The place where you get food.”