At the end of January leaders from Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (KI) First Nation began sentencing proceedings for contempt of court charges in Ontario provincial court. The road to this point has been interesting and groundbreaking for KI and their supporters. In the past 2 years KI has been battling Platinex Inc. and the court system to halt exploratory drilling occurring on their territory. Since 2005, 5 judicial decisions have been made and Platinex filed a $10 billion lawsuit for damages against KI for protecting their lands and would have taken KI 200 years to pay. KI filed a counter lawsuit challenging the constitutional right of Ontario to grant mineral rights on their lands without meaningful consultation. In February 2006, Platinex brought in a British mercenary to watch over their mining activity and equipment.
Last year, RAN worked with KI on some of the Toronto actions. KI’s territory is in an area in northern Ontario referred to as the unallocated forest, meaning that most of these lands are mostly ‘untouched’ by industry. The current (and outdated!) provincial management system believes that mining is the best and highest use of the land and companies are in the area exploring for minerals to further ‘develop’.
KI are signatories to the James Bay treaty (my community signed the same treaty) and I really admire their determination to fight the provincial mining act and mining industry to ensure that their future generations can enjoy the land as they have. The leadership and community are working to protect their rights to an economy and culture which is embedded in their territory. First Nations across the country are watching to see the outcome of KI’s battle to protect their lands and culture, which could be a benchmark in First Nations decisions.
Presently, KI can no longer pay for their legal costs leading Chief Donnie Morris and community members to choose jail time for their contempt of court charge than have Platinex drilling on their lands. In an article by a northern Ontario Aboriginal newspaper Wawatay News, Platinex’s legal council is suggesting “a daily or weekly fine until the contemptors agreed not to interfere with the drilling.” Furthermore he states that “there has to be sting. We’re not about to make a martyr out of Chief Morris (by sending him to jail). Spending time in jail will accomplish nothing for Platinex.” Chief Morris’ response: “I’m willing to go to jail. I’m not a rich guy. I can’t afford fines.”
The next court date is February 25.