Grassy Narrows First Nation is asserting the province should have first consulted with the community before issuing nine permits to mining companies giving them the right to drill on the First Nation’s traditional territory.
The community, located in northwestern Ontario in the area of northern Kenora, issued a news release on Nov. 16 indicating it had begun legal action through the Ontario Divisional Court against the province, in an effort to get the permits cancelled.
The permits not only violate Grassy Narrows’ Indigenous law, but also contravene provincial law and the Constitution of Canada, the community said.
According to the community, the permits were issued between 2018 and 2021, a period that saw an increase of permits on Grassy Narrows’ territory from “a few hundred to nearly 4,000,” the release said.
The permits in question are located in an area the community declared as an indigenous Sovereignty and Protected Area under Grassy Narrows law in 2018.
Grassy Narrows said it want to avoid activity on its traditional territory that will create harm to the community, decrying existing, cumulative harm that’s been created through residential schools, hydro dams, relocation, mercury pollution and clearcut logging.
"We are on a healing path for our people and the forest is our treatment centre,” said Grassy Narrows Chief Randy Fobister, in the release.
“We need our forest intact, but the government isn't working with us, they are working against us.
“They need to stop logging and mining so the land can heal. Good land will heal our people from all the damage the government has been pushing on us like mercury and industry. That is reconciliation for us. Let us use our land to heal. I invite Ontario to join us on this path.”
Chief Fobister said the community has seen a “huge expansion” of mining claims in its territory since Ontario Premier Doug Ford came into power, and it will continue to push back against any activity that infringes on its rights and way of life.
“Ontario says they didn’t know that Grassy Narrows cared about the area that these permits overlap,” Fobister said.
“That is very hard to believe because my people have been fighting to protect this same area for decades in the courts, in negotiations, blockades, and boycotts. Unless your head is in the sand, you have to know that this is Grassy Narrows Territory, and we are protecting it.”