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Conservation group applauds move by Ontario to create certainty for traditional lands


Conservation group applauds move by Ontario to create certainty

for traditional lands First Nations grandmother was jailed protecting

TORONTO – CPAWS Wildlands League, a leading conservation group in the province, welcomes the decision by the province to place 23,000 square kilometres off limits to mining. It is a direct result of the long principled stand by Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (KI) to protect its lands and waters in the Boreal Forest so that their children and grandchildren can continue to pursue their usual vocations of hunting, trapping, and fishing. The land withdrawal, one of the largest single area withdrawals in the history of Ontario, covers an area more than 3 times the size of Ontario’s Greenbelt.

In 2008, leaders from the community of Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug, known as the KI Six, were jailed for peacefully opposing mineral exploration on their lands in the Boreal Forest (located 600km north of Thunder Bay). Cecilia Begg, Head Councillor from KI, a grandmother and five other leaders, including Chief Donnie Morris, were sentenced to six months in jail. This captured the nation’s attention and highlighted the need for Ontario’s antiquated mining laws to be reformed.

“We thank the Premier, Minister Bartolucci and Ontario for respecting the community’s moratorium,” said Janet Sumner, Executive Director of the group.

“We see the announcement as a positive step by the province to provide certainty for local communities, ecosystems, and the broader mining sector. We’re encouraged that this is part of the government’s approach to modernizing its mining regime to reflect the rights of First Nations, needs of ecosystems and a competitive industry,” says Anna Baggio of Wildlands League. The province is currently drafting regulations as part of its process to modernize the mining regime in Ontario. Designating areas off limits to mining through land withdrawals ensures a low risk, stable investment climate for lands still open for activities.

“There remains one outstanding issue,” cautions Anna Baggio of Wildlands League. “Under the old Mining Act (that has aspects still in force), God’s Lake Resources can ignore the wishes of the community in this area. They have hired a private security firm to guard its drilling program at Sherman Lake. We urge the province to resolve this issue quickly and bring peace to the land,” added Baggio. Wildlands League supports the lands documentation process by KI that ultimately could lead to some lands under strict protection and others open to industrial development under the best standards as determined by the community.

Wildlands League has worked with KI since 2005. “This announcement is the direct result of seven long years of hard work by KI and its supporters. We commend the community on its resolve especially in the face of very significant challenges including incarceration in 2008 and a $10 Billion lawsuit,” Sumner added.

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For further information please contact:

Anna Baggio, Director, Conservation Land Use Planning, anna@wildlandsleague.org