Thursday, April 10, 2008

For the love of the land

Below, I am posting a letter to the Editor that I wrote, which was published in the local Chronicle-Journal newspaper last Saturday, April 5th. I titled my letter "Our home on Native land" but, the editor took editorial freedom to edit (part of the risk of sending letters to editors) and changed the title to "Gov't stalling on land rights."

Interestingly, I had sent the letter 10 days earlier (via email, not snail mail, so we can't blame Canada Post for slow delivery). I wrote the letter in response to some very uninformed letters to the editor that blamed FN for the current systemic, government-in-cahoots-with-corporations induced dilemma. Interestingly, too, was that my letter was framed between 2 other pro-mining-as-development pieces, one well-written Opinion piece by the CEO of Matawa First Nations, the other titled "Some bands, mines getting along fine."

Below is my letter:

I am heartened to hear so many people support the Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (KI) in their battle to have their rights recognized, and I refuse to be disheartened by those who have not done their homework and twist the issue of rights to support stereotypes and histories of systemic injustices against First Nations people.

The injustice inflicted on the entire KI people -- for the incarceration of 6 of their band members has ramifications for the entire community -- by the Ontario court system is an issue for all Canadians, not just First Nations people. Respecting First Nations peoples’ perspectives on land and land use is crucial. The KI issue is about land and First Nations rights to land, the very issue that our government continues to stall rather than to settle.

As reported by Doug Cuthand in The Saskatoon Star Phoenix, the KI First Nation had researched its treaty land entitlement and concluded it was eligible for more land. When Platinex began its explorations for platinum this claim was before the Department of Indian Affairs. The mining corporation was exploring on lands subject to land claim, yet provincial governments cannot issue exploration or logging permits in areas subject to land claims as the Supreme Court ruled in Haida Nation v British Columbia 2004.

Who then is not following “the rule of law”?

KI people have been patient in having their land claims addressed. They are standing up to protect the land against corporate incursion. The courts however favor corporations not humans. Non-native people should be outraged not only about the incarceration of the KI members but also about the lack of attention to the real culprit—government failure to resolve the land claim rights of First Nations peoples.

Jailing the KI people shows that neoliberal values trump indigenous rights and human rights. Is this the Canada we want to live in? Where corporations are powerful and people are silenced by being put in jail? Is jailing First Nations people really the solution to the problems of not addressing the issue of land claims?

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