Pages tagged "forest"

From Paper Promises to Real Change: Reforming a Global Forest Destroyer

Screen_Shot_2015-02-03_at_3.47.20_PM.pngToday marks two years since Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) abruptly changed course, silenced its bulldozers and announced a groundbreaking Forest Conservation Policy. For decades, the Indonesian logging giant had been one of the globe’s most notorious threats to rainforests and forest communities - taking over and mowing down tens of thousands of acres a year to produce wood pulp for books, copy paper, tissue and packaging.

But after steady years of nonstop pressure from RAN and other groups, we achieved one of the most dramatic shifts in corporate policy ever. APP’s Forest Conservation Policy has the potential to impact millions of acres of some of the most culturally and biologically diverse landscapes in the world -- and it would never have happened without the steadfast perseverance of supporters like you. 

So THANK YOU once again! 

But at Rainforest Action Network, we know that promises, especially of the corporate variety, can be broken.

So over the past two years, we have remained vigilant and active behind the scenes, working hard to turn paper promises into real change on the ground. Our goal is not a corporate PR moment, but real positive impact on the lives of local communities in Indonesia, and the protection of crucial habitat for endangered wildlife like the Sumatran tiger, elephant and orangutan. Working with Indonesian and other allies, our efforts have resulted in an improved process for conflict resolution with local communities, a commitment to effectively restore over two million acres of degraded forests, and we are still fighting for improvements and greater transparency throughout APP’s implementation process. 

Just last month, RAN released an in-depth report on APP’s progress. Along with 10 allied organizations - including 9 based in Indonesia - this on-the-ground research consulted 17 Indonesian communities directly impacted by APP - and the results reveal significant policy implementation problems. Our report offers detailed recommendations for how APP can properly address hundreds of unresolved land conflicts remaining in its concessions, Just today the company has released an action plan outlining its response to our concerns and a third party performance evaluation of APP that we helped secure.

While we will continue to hold APP accountable, RAN also directly supports frontline communities living with the historic impact of APP’s deforestation. Our Protect-an-Acre program provides crucial grants that go directly to the local organizations and community groups working on these issues - groups like Yayasan Wahana Bumi Hijau (WBH) which recently supported villagers to successfully negotiate an agreement with APP to return  24,000 acres of their traditional lands  to community stewardship. This story is just one of many, many more - please visit the Protect an Acre site to learn more and to pledge your support directly to the frontline communities that need it most.

Thank you for making this possible - and please help us keep up the pressure in 2015 and beyond.

For the Planet

Lindsey Allen

Executive Director

Don't Miss Out: Palm Oil Action Leaders Summit

You’re going to want to clear your schedule. This. Is. Huge.

I’m really excited to tell you about the next big thing happening with the Palm Oil Action Team: The first ever Palm Oil Action Leaders Summit!

The Palm Oil Action Team is making some of the largest companies in the world change their policies and their practices to protect the precious rainforests of Indonesia and Malaysia. We're winning, but there is still more work to be done. That's why I am so excited to invite you to join the Palm Oil Action Leaders Summit.

When you apply to join the Summit and become a Palm Oil Action Leader, here’s what you’ll get:

  • Attend the Palm Oil Action Leaders Summit in San Francisco, CA from March 27 - 31st where you will be trained in designing and coordinating creative actions, communicating clearly to the public about campaign work, and how to incite and inspire your community to take action!

  • Put your new knowledge from the Summit into practice by organizing creative actions in your community -- publicly exposing the ills of Conflict Palm Oil and holding PepsiCo and other companies that are using this controversial ingredient to account.

  • Be part of an incredible team of activists from around the country from March to September 2015 (and beyond!) that collaborate and support each other as part of the Conflict Palm Oil campaign.

  • In summary: Make an impact for rainforests, and the people and animals that depend on them, by gaining new organizing skills, being a part of a powerful team and having FUN!

Ready for the nitty gritty details? Here they are:

What: Palm Oil Action Leaders Summit

When: March 27-31, 2015

Where: San Francisco and Point Reyes, California

Why: RAN’s Conflict Palm Oil Campaign is on the way to victory, but we’ll need committed and passionate activists to lead the charge and raise the stakes for the Snack Food 20. We're committed to bringing together a powerful team and giving you the skills and training you need to be effective and have fun.

Who can join: Whether you are brand new to RAN’s campaigns or are a seasoned activist, we encourage you to apply. We will be looking for diversity in background, geographical location and experience in applicants.

Costs: While the summit is free and all food, lodging, and training are provided at no cost, you will be responsible for the cost of travel to and from the Summit. Limited travel scholarships are available for those who need them in order to attend. We encourage everyone to apply regardless of their ability to pay for transportation.

Training Logistics: Meals at the Summit will be vegan and vegetarian and will fulfill any dietary needs. We will be staying in shared dorm rooms at the Point Reyes Hostel and at another hostel TBD in San Francisco.

How to apply: Spots are starting to fill up, and we are continuing to accept applications on a rolling basis! We will close the application process when all spaces are full. If this page is up there are spots still available, so click here to apply right now!

Commitment: We are asking everyone who applies to commit to attending the entire Summit and commit to doing roughly 10-15 hours of organizing per month from March 31 to September 31, 2015.

Do you have any questions about the Palm Oil Action Leaders Summit that aren’t answered here? Email me at

Apply now and become a leader in the protection our forests and our future!

The Tar Sands Healing Walk: A Photo-Diary

Last week, a team of RAN staff travelled to Fort McMurray in Alberta, Canada to participate in the Tar Sands Healing Walk, which is organized and hosted by members of the local First Nations Communities. 

Walking amidst the Tar Sands destruction was a humbling and powerful experience. We are putting together a series of blogs to share our impressions and reflections. This, our first one, is a photo-diary of the walk.

1. Grand Chief Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Derek Nepinak, Chief Allan Adam and Grand Chief Philip Stewart addressed the walkers at the beginning of our day. Each spoke about the importance of protecting land for future generations and the impacts that Tar Sands mining is having on First Nations Communities in Canada.

2. Aboriginal elders led procession under a banner reading “Stop the Destruction Start the Healing”. Along the way we stopped to pray for the land’s healing with offerings of tobacco, water and song.

3. We walked for more than nine miles around Syncrude’s excavation site, refinery and tailings ponds.


4. Many of the vehicles that passed our walk were transporting ‘potable water’. The local groundwater has been polluted by the Tar Sands mining operations.


5. This ‘Tailings Pond’ contains waste water from the Tar Sands extraction process. The neon work-suited scarecrows have been placed to deter birds from landing on the pond. 1600 ducks died after landing on a Syncrude tailings pond in 2008.


6. We were accompanied on the walk by two First Nations drum groups.

7. The air was thick and heavy with fumes from Syncrude’s refinery.

8. We passed a ‘work camp’ where Syncrude workers live, in the shadow of the refinery.

9. The RAN team, next to Syncrude’s refinery.

10. We passed several areas labeled as ‘reclamation’ sites. These bore no resemblance to the healthy Boreal forest ecosystem that existed before the mine was developed.

Stay tuned for future blog posts sharing our impressions and reflections. 

A New Chapter for the Publishing Industry: Putting Promises into Practice

pubreport_720x720We don’t get to do this as often as we would like. Today, we get to share some good news with you. Thanks to your hard work and support over the past four years, the world’s top publishers are moving in the right direction when it comes to eliminating rainforest destruction, human rights violations, and species extinction from their supply chains.

We’re publishing A New Chapter for the Publishing Industry: Putting Promises into Practice today, which outlines the shift in the entire sector as the implementation of publishers’ Indonesian forest commitments proceeds. Given the progress that publishers have undertaken in the last four years (since our 2010 report), we can confidently say that you have successfully prodded the 10 biggest publishers—and hence the whole industry—in the right direction. Click here to read the new report.

To really illustrate the point, we are pleased to tell you about two recently announced paper policies from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Macmillan. These policies go farther, in many ways, than past commitments from other companies. They demonstrate a new level of thoughtfulness and attention to detail—and a fierce commitment to eliminating controversial fiber and suppliers in order to protect the forests facing the greatest threats. Over the last four years, RAN has worked closely with publishers to develop and innovate the best practices for eliminating controversial fiber and suppliers from supply chains, and verifying and implementing forest commitments. What has emerged is a set of best practices (spelled out in the report) that could guide companies--not just in paper but in many forest commodities--in tracing their supply chains and protecting forests in the process. Of course, there’s still work to be done.

In order to translate this work to change on the ground, publishers should urge all of their supply chain partners to develop and implement strong, comprehensive paper policies. And, in particular, all companies should either stop buying (or maintain their no-buy stance) on controversial Indonesian pulp and paper giant APRIL and all affiliated companies.

RSVP to join me in a chat on May 27, 2014 to find out how you can help us keep publishers on the right track or to read the report here.

Of course, this transformative work would never have been possible without you. While much of this work has happened behind the scenes, you were with us every step of the way through your commitment to RAN and its work.

Ignoring Human Rights Abuses and Coal’s Uncertain Future, Big Banks Line Up for Piece of World’s Largest Coal Miner

HarshadBarveGPThis is a guest post by Ashish Fernandes, a climate campaigner with Greenpeace. Green is in on Wall Street. Or so you’d think, if you believe the sustainability policies of some of the United States’ biggest banks. Bank of America, Citi, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan and Morgan Stanley all have paid lip service to environmental sustainability and the transition to a low carbon future. And yet these same institutions all lined up for a piece of Coal India Limited, one of the world’s largest coal miners, and perpetrator of environmental and social injustice in some of India’s poorest regions, showing that when it comes to issues of justice and sustainability, they all have a long way to go when it comes to walking the talk. The government of India intends to sell 5% of its stake in Coal India, hoping to raise over a billion dollars in the international markets. Reports from India indicate that Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, Credit Suisse and Deutsche Bank are going to help raise that money, by managing the share sale. The previous share offer in 2010 attracted over two billion dollars in international capital, but given the company’s struggles since then, and a global downturn for coal, this time it might not be such an easy sell. Coal India Limited is one of the largest coal miners in the world, and almost all of its coal comes from destructive open pit mines, most of them in forest regions of Central and Eastern India. Forests that tribal communities depend on for their daily livelihood. The same forests that inspired Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book, and that today still harbor tigers, leopards, sloth bears and elephants. When Coal India descends on these remote locations, what follows is predictable: tribals displaced and left with no source of livelihood, forced to move into cement and tin boxes that serve as houses, forests clear-felled, streams and rivers fouled. A few of the displaced might be “lucky” enough to get manual labour jobs in the pit that replaces their forest. Their children often end up working along side them or scavenging coal to sell in the informal market—a shocking violation of India’s child labor and safety laws. This company’s business model is devastating: destroy forests and endangered wildlife, uproot ancient tribal cultures, forcibly displace those who refuse to move, replace aforementioned forests/cultures with an industrial wasteland. Above all, don’t let respect for human rights or the environment come in the way. All this to produce coal, the burning of which is responsible for approximately 100,000 deaths a year in India. This is the company that Bank of America, Goldman Sachs and others are so eager to lend their services to. If ethical and environmental reasons aren’t enough to steer clear of coal, there are serious financial risks that Coal India poses to any investor. The company’s stock price has nosedived. Production continues to lag far behind demand. The government of India continues to subsidize coal by keeping the prices artificially low even as cost of production increases, meaning that the share price is likely to remain under pressure and shareholder value is not unlocked. The financial problems faced by coal are not particular to India, but are part of a larger global shift. Goldman Sachs itself has predicted that coal is going to be eroded by environmental regulations, renewable energies and energy efficiency, warning that the window for profitable investments in coal is rapidly closing. Right now, the CEOs of Bank of America and Goldman Sachs are probably figuring out how to spin their involvement with Coal India while continuing to claim a commitment to social justice and a more sustainable, low carbon economy. They will probably trot out the tired myths about the poor in the developing world having no choice but to rely on coal—but here’s the thing: That lie no longer works. Clean energy from wind power and the sun are now almost as cheap (and in some cases cheaper) as new coal, with mainstream research from the likes of HSBC predicting that coal will be as expensive as solar photovoltaics within 5 years. Others have a tighter timeframe of 3-4 years. The moral justification for supporting coal in India has been demolished. And the financial case for moving capital out of the coal sector has never been stronger. Will the big banks read the writing on the wall?   AshishAshish Fernandes is US-India Climate Adviser with Greenpeace. His work highlights the often-ignored environmental, social and financial risks inherent in the Indian coal sector, to drive home the message that India's reliance on coal is a problem for individual companies, investors, the economy and the country at large. Prior to his work on coal, he focused on issues of deforestation and ocean protection in India, and has 15 years of experience in the environmental sector with a range of non-profits and media outlets.

Mickey and Minnie Protest Disney Rainforest Destruction at Company HQ

UPDATE: On October 11, 2012, Disney announced a comprehensive paper policy that maximizes its use of environmentally superior papers like recycled and eliminates controversial sources like those connected to Indonesian rainforest destruction. For more info, visit Early this morning, two activists supporting Rainforest Action Network unfurled a 35 foot banner across The Walt Disney Company’s two-story entrance arch that reads “Disney: Destroying Indonesia’s Rainforests.” Beneath them, Mickey and Minnie Mouse locked down to the main entrance gates to the company’s Burbank headquarters—blockading Disney’s executives from arriving to work through the main gates. Please support these brave activists by taking action today. Tell Disney CEO Robert Iger that rainforest destruction is no fairy tale. Disney: Destroying Indonesian Rainforests Indonesia’s rainforests are some of the most biologically diverse in the world and they are being destroyed at a rate of 200,000 to 400,000 acres per month. The pulp and paper industry is a primary cause of this reckless deforestation. Most of top U.S. publishers of children's books have taken strong steps to protect their supply chains from controversial Indonesian fiber, but Disney, the largest publisher of kids’ books in the world, has refused to take action. This bold action sends a loud message to Disney’s top executives that it is unacceptable for them to continue to drag their feet when they have known for over a year that paper in Disney’s children’s books has been proven to be connected to rainforest destruction and species extinction in Indonesia. For more on Disney's involvement go to Rainforest Action Network is asking The Walt Disney Company to eliminate its use of controversial Indonesian fiber and publicly sever all financial ties with APP and APRIL and their affiliates until key reforms are adopted. RAN is also asking Disney to implement a comprehensive company-wide paper policy and rigorous due diligence procedures that ensure it is rainforest safe. To follow @RANActions and @TheRightPaper on Twitter for up-to-the-minute reports on today's action. UPDATE: 9am pst. A swarm of police officers and fire trucks arrived at the Disney headquarters this morning and arrested Mickey and Minnie Mouse, using bolt cutters to break through the chains attaching them to the entrance gates. Above, a fire truck raised its ladder to cut down the banner and arrest the two climbers attached to the two story arch. The arrested activists were Christopher Toomey, Jennifer Binstock, Blake Hodges and Alexis Dickason-Soto, all residents of the Los Angeles area. The activists are in the custody of the Burbank Police and charges are pending. Though the protest lasted just short of an hour, this was time enough for helicopter and satellite news trucks to arrive and record the colorful scene.

Cargill leaves a palm oil mess in Papua New Guinea

Cargill Inc., the world’s largest agribusiness company, has announced the sale of their palm oil plantations in the remote tropical nation of Papua New Guinea (PNG). Cargill owns mills and plantations in Indonesia, Malaysia, and until today, PNG, and trades palm oil globally produced by at least 25 additional palm oil producers in Indonesia and Malaysia. A Cargill oil palm plantation in PNG - Photo by Greenpeace

Cargill's oil palm operations in PNG destroyed rainforests - Photo by Greenpeace PNG

Just three months ago RAN released a case study, based on original field research carried out by RAN and the International Accountability Project, on Cargill’s palm oil operations in PNG.  Commodity Colonialism reports that serious environmental and social issues threaten the sustainability of Cargill’s plantations there, with a special focus on the dangers of converting once independent and self sufficient Papuan farmers into indebted laborers through Cargill’s use of share cropping contracts. After five years of operations in PNG, Cargill is turning their palm oil plantations over to New Britain Palm Oil, along with a range of unfilled commitments to the people and government of PNG. It is unclear what will become of the thousands of indebted Papuans who remain bound under contract to exclusively produced oil palm for Cargill at prices set by the company, of the polluted rivers and watersheds Cargill is leaving behind, or the roads Cargill made a commitment to build and maintain in the rugged interior. Cargill did not release any official comments but insiders point to the strong criticisms of Cargill’s unsustainable palm oil production by customers and the media as a likely reason Cargill decided to exit the country. Recent contract cancellations against the Indonesian palm oil producer Sinar Mas, Cargill’s single-largest palm oil supplier, have led to questions of Cargill’s support of, and profits from, rainforest destruction in neighboring Indonesia.

Cargill's Oro Bay palm oil plantation - Photo by Greenpeace PNG

Back in PNG, local communities have spoken out on the damaging effects palm oil production has on the farms, forests, and rivers they have depended on for tens of thousands of years for survival. The lack of Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC) in Cargill’s sharecropping agreements, the lack of training to use dangerous pesticides, and the use of child labor are also among the most serious concerns expressed by locals living at Cargill’s three PNG plantations. Cargill’s entrance into palm oil production in PNG gave rise to concerns that the company would use its financial and political influence to undermine the strict protections the constitution of PNG provides to community forests and farms through the recognition of communities’ customary land rights. It appears that these strict constitutional protections, which prevented Cargill from rapidly expanding it’s PNG plantations, played a significant role in Cargill’s decision to stop producing oil palm in PNG. A World Bank social impact report that noted increases of debt, prostitution, alcohol, and violence at PNG’s palm oil plantation communities,  providing additional reasons for Cargill to disassociate themselves with PNG palm oil.
New Britain Palm Oil's Togulo palm oil operations in PNG replaced natural rainforest in 1979.  - Photo by Greenpeace PNG
New Britain Palm Oil (NBPO) is a long-time producer of palm oil in Papua New Guinea with a reputation for respecting local communities and a cautious approach to oil palm expansion, but NBPO’s plans for Cargill’s holdings are unknown. One this is for certain though, NBPO will now have to clean up Cargill’s palm oil mess in PNG. David Gilbert is a Research Fellow at RAN. He has worked in the tropical forests of the Amazon and Indonesia, with a special focus on forest conservation and indigenous rights. He can be reached at

Bunge Shareholder Meeting Update

Great report back from Samantha Corbin, who attended Bunge's shareholder meeting last Friday! "I'm more of a party crasher than someone who gets an engraved invitation. Certainly so when the party is the shareholder meeting of a billion-dollar multinational corporation like Bunge, one of the largest argribusiness and food companies in the world and a major force in the devastation of South American rainforests. I'm used to getting chucked out of these meetings for sneaking in and then challenging CEOs in front of their board and shareholders while people try not to make eye contact. Aaaawkward. But this time was different in some surprising ways. First of all I was actually allowed to be there and participate in Bunge's annual general meeting at the posh Sofitel Hotel in midtown Manhattan today, and while I was expecting to have to practically grab the mike and race through a statement on their destructive practices, I was able to have a ten or twelve minute open discussion with their CEO Alberto Weisser while shareholders on either side of me smiled or gave me little thumbs up. After the meeting several shareholders wanted to talk about sustainable development, and thanked me and Rainforest Action Network for bringing up these issues in the meeting. Nobody wants to be Scrooge McDuck funding things that are wrong or bad. And people are becoming especially aware of issues of sustainability and our interconnectedness as the our financial systems tumble and our planet begins to groan under the weight of climate change and prolonged abuse. Every shareholder I met in that room wants to be part of something useful and positive and Bunge's corporate line certainly feeds into that. They talk about feeding the world and had a whole packet enumerating their values of integrity, citizenship and environmental stewardship. Mr. Weisser spoke at length about working with local growers in South America and investing in social projects. I'm all for a business culture that values "integrity and citizenship". The problem lies in the space between Bunge's rhetoric and Bunge's actions. - While Bunge insists it is working to curb greenhouse gas emissions; it has continued to expand its operations in Brazil, which has become the fourth largest greenhouse gas polluter in the world with deforestation accounting for three quarters of its emissions. Soy expansion by companies like Bunge is the leading cause of deforestation. - While Bunge talks about funding social programs in communities, it is still responsible for the human rights disaster of displacing Indigenous peoples throughout its South American operations - While Bunge stresses a commitment to farmers and its employees, the expansion of soy forces small farming communities off their lands, providing just one job for every 11 subsistence farmer it displaces. The CEO was adamant about the necessity for this kind of aggressive expansion based on the statistic that "in order to feed the world's population we will have to double the amount of food we produce through 2050". Now that's a scary thought and the impulse to feed hungry people is certainly a noble one; however, much of the soy grown in these operations goes toward feeding European or Chinese livestock, or out of the food chain entirely into bio-fuels. Under this model I wonder if Mr. Weisser's expecting we'll have to mow down every bit of remaining rainforest to utilize its arable land potential. And if we continue to use the land we raze so irresponsibly, will that even be enough? I mean if we're talking about a global food crisis, shouldn't we be thinking about sustainable agriculture and low impact crops? Do we really want to test the planet's carrying capacity over margarine and chicken feed? Really? Considering the seriousness of the issues at stake it may seem obvious that an immediate turnaround of Bunge's on the ground practices is the only way to cease activities wholly out of line with the core values of just about every living person, and if the shareholders do what they know is right they'll push their company in that direction. But it was clear today that people can be so removed from the day to day realities of how a giant company like this works that it takes persistent little wake up calls be they petitions or demonstrations or people standing at microphones to keep the conversation going and the pressure on!"

Indigenous resistance gets the goods

If you haven’t already heard about Ontario’s huge announcement for the Boreal and Indigenous rights then you should REALLY check out this earlier post. Ontario's Premier committed to protect 50% of the province's Northern Boreal Forest from all industry, and to allow new logging and mining only with the support of First Nations through a community landuse planning process that would require First Nations agreement. Indian Country (The Nations’ Leading American Indian News Source) ran a long article today that began to put the announcement in context. While the Government may cast their move as a benevolent attempt to ‘do the right thing’ they were really spurred to action by the highly effective and hard fought campaigns of Indigenous communities like Grassy Narrows, KI, Ardoch, and Six Nations. Those communities have not only been on the front lines of the blockades, they are also setting ground breaking legal precedents, and they are galvanizing a solidarity movement that has mobilized people and organizations across the spectrum from mainsteam to radical enviros, human rights, faith-based, labour, student unions, anti-poverty, and immigrant rights organizations. It is primarily the work of these communities (and their supporters) that has created the political and economic necessity for this change. The work goes on as these communities continue the process of asserting their sovereignty, re-claiming their territories and livelihoods, healing their people, and caring for the earth. They are setting a bold example for the whole world to follow. RAN, and our allies, have had the honor of working with some of these courageous communities over the last four years. Here are some of the pictures: Sept. 21, ‘07 action with Grassy, KI, Ardoch, and CPT at the Ontario Legislature, shortly before the elections June 25, '07 action at Provincial Legislature with Grassy and KI , and CPT July, '06 Blockade of the English River Road with Grassy activists April '07 Seattle action at Weyerhaeuser subsidiary right before Weyerhaeuser AGM March '07 Seattle action July 2006 TransCanada Highway blockade near Grassy Narrows Nov. 2005 Boreal Day of Action - Toronto May '08 Gathering, Rally, and Sleepover at Provincial Legislature with Grassy and KI , Ardoch and a huge coalition of supporters

Indigenous prisoners of conscience

Earlier this week 6 political leaders of the Indigenous Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (KI) First Nation were sentenced to 6 months in jail for refusing to allow mining and exploration on their traditional lands. Cecelia Begg being taken to jail KI councilor Cecilia Begg, the only woman among the KI six, is now all alone in the Thunder Bay District jail, a notorious jail that has seen 3 aboriginal deaths in the last 4 years. Please take action to support the KI six. You can write letters to Cecilia at: Thunder Bay Detention Centre Highway 61 South PO Box 1900 Thunder Bay ON P7C 4Y4 The Globe and Mail (Canada) March 20, 2008 Thursday Are the KI Six outlaws or prisoners of conscience? BYLINE: RACHEL ARISS, Legal specialist in the Department of Sociology at Lakehead University As of this week, Chief Donny Morris and five other band council members of Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug First Nation sit in jail. They were sentenced on Monday to six months in prison by Mr. Justice Patrick Smith of the Ontario Superior Court in Thunder Bay. So what "crime" did they commit? KI First Nation leaders signed Treaty 9 in 1929 to protect their ability to feed themselves in their homeland (600 kilometres northwest of Thunder Bay) by hunting, fishing and trapping, and to prevent the encroachment of early miners and loggers. The native community saw the treaty as a peaceful way to share the land with newcomers, while remaining connected to the land's sustenance and sacredness. But in the winter of 2005-06, Platinex, a mining-exploration company, tried to drill on land for which it had staked a claim pursuant to Ontario's mining laws but which land also is subject to Treaty 9. KI First Nation members protested on the site, preventing the drilling from proceeding. The company sued for damages and sought an injunction to prevent further protests. It was the KI First Nation, however, that received an interim injunction based on the irreparable harm it would suffer if drilling went ahead as Platinex had planned. The injunction was granted on condition that the parties negotiate toward an agreement that would allow Platinex to drill. Ontario joined as intervenor, talks between the three parties followed, but no agreement could be reached. The court lifted the injunction last May and imposed an agreement, proposed by Platinex and Ontario. KI First Nation members were ordered to allow Platinex onto their land to drill. When they did not do this, they were found in contempt of court. In other words, when the people of the KI First Nation asserted their treaty rights - to secure sustenance from the land, to live on the land in accordance with their spiritual beliefs, and to share the land, as equals, with the newcomers - their leaders were jailed. How did it come to this? Three laws converge in this place. The first, since time immemorial and the one that is sacred to the people of KI, is to follow the duty given to them by the Creator to protect the land for future generations. According to this law, the people of KI did not have to follow the court order. In all conscience, they could not allow Platinex to drill. Exploratory drilling - and its accompanying noise, campsite, drill pad, machinery, fuel drums, helicopters and trucks - poses an unacceptable risk of damaging the Big Trout Lake area, a place of reliable hunting and fishing sites, trap lines, regular berry harvesting and burials of still-remembered family members. The second law, Treaty 9, was a covenant made between equals to share the land, allowing both peoples to live peacefully together. According to this law (and the Supreme Court has affirmed that governments must consult with and accommodate first nations before doing anything that may infringe treaty rights), it is the Ontario government and Platinex that have to do things differently. Jailing the KI leadership will not lead Ontario to properly consult with and accommodate the community's concerns - it may do the opposite. The third law is Ontario's Mining Act, with its outdated free-entry staking system. The contradiction between the Mining Act and KI's treaty rights is key to understanding why the native leaders are in jail. The act allows anyone to stake a claim anywhere on Crown land and, as soon as it is filed with the government, it is valid. The act does not mention that all Crown land in Ontario is governed by treaties with first nations people. It doesn't even include the minimal first step of requiring companies or the ministry to communicate with first nations about exploration. The system makes money for Ontario and, especially, for mining companies. Ontario has long resisted fulfilling its treaty promises, perhaps hoping that impoverished remote communities will not fight for their rights. Its pattern has been to resist until there is a crisis, until the damage of broken trust with aboriginal peoples has been entrenched - Ipperwash and Caledonia are the most recent and most publicized evidence of this pattern. Ontario has failed in its duty to consult, accommodate and, more important, to reconcile with first nations communities across the province. First nations people and their supporters are tired of this deliberate failure. Many aboriginal and non-aboriginal people in this province want to find a way forward, out of the poverty, racism and despair facing many first nations communities, toward living together peacefully and respectfully. Some of these folks were at the courthouse in Thunder Bay on Monday. Others attended the courthouse in Kingston when Bob Lovelace, a member of the Ardoch Algonquin First Nation, was sentenced in February to six months in jail for opposing mining exploration on his community's traditional lands. We will not go away. The KI Six have been in jail since Monday. They are in jail because they believe they have a spiritual duty to protect the land for future generations, and they believe that drilling the land is not protecting it. They are in jail because they believe they have legally recognizable treaty rights that remain meaningful as long as they can maintain their homeland in its pristine state. The KI Six are prisoners of conscience. Clearly, the dispute between the KI First Nation and Platinex is a crisis. But a Band-Aid solution from Ontario is not enough. It is time for all of us, aboriginal and non-aboriginal, to stand up with the KI community and demand justice, and to continue demanding justice until we have true reconciliation between aboriginal and non-aboriginal people in Ontario.

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