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Northwest chiefs urge Ford to just say 'no' to mining

Indigenous communities to rally support in Toronto next week in calling for halt to exploration activity on their traditional lands
Neskantaga First Nation Chief Chris Moonias speaks at the rally in Toronto in July. (Jessica Smith Cross/The Trillium photo)

Indigenous leadership from four northwestern Ontario First Nation communities are trekking to Queen’s Park early next week, seeking an audience with Premier Doug Ford and a halt to mining activity on their traditional homelands. 

In a Sept. 20 news release, the chiefs of the Land Defence Alliance, which comprises Asubpeeschoseewagong First Nation (Grassy Narrows), Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (Big Trout Lake First Nation), Wapekeka First Nation and Neskantaga First Nation, are inviting Ford to the table, literally and figuratively, next Tuesday.

At noon, Sept.26, the chiefs said they will be seated at a table on the lawn of the legislature with an empty chair available for a face-to-face meeting with the premier.

They’ll have a document for Ford to sign, a declaration that First Nations have the right to say ‘no’ to mining to their traditional lands.

Mining activity, they said, is happening on their land “against their will” and that the Ford government is encouraging the expansion of mining on land where Indigenous people have lived for generations.

Not expecting the premier to show up, the chiefs said the following day, Sept. 27, “hundreds” of community members will travel to Toronto to march with “thousands of supporters” in the city in calling on Ford to respect Indigenous rights to “control their lives and to protect their lands.”

The Land Defence Alliance was announced last winter in response to an increase in exploration staking in northwestern Ontario. The alliance was said to have been formed to “defend their way of life, their people, their land, and their freedom in the face of increasing incursions from the mining industry.” 

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“We are deeply concerned about encroachment by the mining industry on our Homelands which you and your government have encouraged against our will,” the chiefs said in a joint new release. 

They said Ford has refused to meet with the chiefs. 

“You want to open up our Homelands to mining, but you won’t meet with us. You won’t even look us in the eye," the release said.

Since the beginning of the year, some remote First Nation communities have shown their displeasure with the Ford government's pro-mining agenda with rallies at Queen’s Park. 

The flash point occurred in early March with the introduction of controversial new amendments to Ontario’s Mining Act, designed to expedite the permitting times and approvals process to put new mines into production faster. 

The legislative move unleashed a widespread backlash from Indigenous organizations across Ontario who argued they were not consulted prior to the bill’s introduction in the legislature. Bill 71 was quickly passed into law in May.

 — with files from The Trillium