Asubpeeschoseewagong, the indigenous or Ojibway name for
The community says that 50 percent of their traditional lands have already been clear-cut by multinational logging companies, and the current licenses issued by
“Mining issues continue and permits are handed out despite the Supreme Court decision around native land rights,” John Cutfeet of the nearby Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug First Nations near
The Grassy Narrows First Nation is within an 1873 treaty that recognises the right of the Anishnaabe peoples “to pursue their avocations of hunting and fishing throughout the tract.” Recent Supreme Court decisions have upheld the government’s duty to conduct meaningful discussions with native groups before carrying out projects that impact their lands.
In early September, the
“Companies are drilling without following the rule of law,” Cutfeet said. “There has been virtually no consultation or accommodation of our people. Treaty land was a fulfillment of the land claims process. The government and the companies have an illegal presence in our territories.”
Compared to other racial and cultural groups in Canada, indigenous people have the lowest life expectancies, highest infant mortality rates, most substandard and overcrowded housing, lower education and employment levels, and the highest incarceration rates. Native people lead in the statistics of suicide, alcoholism, and family abuse.
Brant Olson of the Rainforest Action Project told IPS, “Amnesty International and many groups have verified the problems at
“The community doesn’t trust the intentions of companies like Abitibi Consolidated and Weyerhauser,” said Olson.
Jim Loney, a member of the Christian Peacemakers Team, which had a delegation in the region, told IPS that the traditional land use area where they hunt, trap and fish has been logged by the forestry company Abitibi-Consolidated. According to Loney, trap lines have disappeared into the clear-cuts, some of which are a kilometre long.
In December 2002, a group of people from the community, including high school students, formed a blockade to stop clear-cutting. Human rights organisations such as the Christian Peacemakers Team and Amnesty International came to
International civil society organisations have since helped to build political support for the objectives of the blockade and have alerted U.N. authorities. “There has been a lot of reaching out, educating the public, building allies and alliances, and building solidarity in support of the
Last month, environmental and aboriginal groups unfurled a 75-metre-long arrow-shaped banner on the lawn of the
Loney added that provincial and federal governments should honour their commitments and responsibilities with First Nations people and consult on matters related to the use of native land. As mining and forestry companies are moving ahead with development, there are concerns about creating a high-profile and credible process to mediate the land rights dispute.
First Nation representatives at the Sep. 21 event described how such projects degrade the land, disrupt traditional cultural practices, and reverse economic rights guaranteed to them under the Canadian Constitution.
“We, the grassroots people of the Anishnabeg, have an obligation to protect the land and the culture and our way of life for the future of our children and grandchildren,” Judy Da Silva of the Grassy Narrows First Nations said in a statement.