A northwestern Ontario First Nation is asking a court to review the issuance of mineral exploration permits by the province's Ministry of Northern Development and Mines.
A two-day hearing into the matter began Feb. 7 in Superior Court in Toronto.
According to a statement from Eabametoong, the permits were issued despite concerns raised by community members about impacts to the environment and aboriginal and treaty rights.
Chief Elizabeth Atlookan said "there are burial grounds, birthplaces, cabins used by our families, sensitive spawning areas, and rich hunting grounds throughout the area staked."
The First Nation alleges that a government consultation process was cut short while substantive issues were still under discussion.
Nishnawbe Aski Nation, the organization representing 49 First Nations across northern Ontario, issued a news release endorsing Eabametoong's challenge.
Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler said, "First Nation inherent and treaty rights supersede any federal and provincial legislation enacted without our free, prior and informed consent, and we support Chief Elizabeth Atlookan and council for defending their homelands."
In a statement emailed to tbnewswatch.com, the MNDM said, "Ontario is committed to encouraging mineral exploration and development in a manner consistent with the constitutional recognition of existing Aboriginal and Treaty rights, including the duty to consult."
However, the ministry would not comment specifically on the issue raised by Eabametoong, because it is before the courts.
Eabametoong is about 360 kilometres north of Thunder Bay.