On October 10th, and as a part of the national Indigenous Day of Action, members of the Algonquins of Barriere Lake took to Highway 117 to raise awareness of a new threat to their traditional territories – a prospective mine within La Verendrye Wildlife Reserve.
According to community representatives, the area in question has been under moratorium from mining since 2011. A spokesperson for the Ministry of Natural Resources described this as a “suspension”. Either way, the mining moratorium/suspension was lifted on July 29th of this year without the consent of the Algonquins, the spokesperson confirmed to media.
There are legitimate fears within the community that the proposed mine will pollute surrounding waters and contaminate wildlife, devastating their food sources. And so they have consistently communicated their opposition to this project while undertaking long term resource negotiations with the Quebec and Federal governments.
Allowing a mine under these circumstances would be deeply problematic for a number of reasons.
First: how does imposing a mine and the grave risk of contaminated food sources upon an Indigenous Nation possibly seem like a reasonable thing to do in 2016? How does this fit with the promised approach to reconciliation? It can’t.
Second: this is a community with its own vision of sustainable forest use and wildlife management. A vision supported by countless millennia of knowledge and stewardship in this Indigenous cultural landscape. This knowledge and stewardship should be celebrated and given life in partnership with a supportive government, not disregarded with unilateral mining grants.
Third: mining under these circumstances is incompatible with the agreements signed with Canada and Quebec to sustainably manage the forests and wildlife in the territory and protect the Algonquin culture and way of life.
And, of course, this does not respect the Algonquin’s right to free, prior and informed consent (FPIC). The subject of much fear mongering by Canada’s former federal government, FPIC means that Indigenous Peoples have the “right to say yes and the right to say no”, Assembly of First Nations National Chief explained in New York this year. Meaning yes to Indigenous stewardship and projects that support sustainable regional development, no to a mine that risks the health and livelihoods of future generations.
There should be no mining without consent.
Learn more about the community’s response to this attempt “to bury our cultural identity alive under the debris of mining tailings” here. Please support generously.