KI Six is Canada’s David and Goliath story

 

KI Six is Canada's David and Goliath story

 

Colleen Simard

All material copyright Winnipeg Free Press, a division of FP Canadian Newspapers Limited Partnership. All rights reserved.

 

Colleen Simard

 

Have you heard about the KI Six? It's a David and Goliath story if there ever was one.

 

Kitchenuhmayboosib Inninuwug First Nation — KI First Nation for short — in Northern Ontario has been battling with the Platinex mining exploration company since 2005. But a few weeks ago the dispute reached new heights, with the community's leadership getting thrown in jail.

 

On March 17, KI First Nation Chief Donny Morris, Deputy Chief Jack MacKay and four band councillors were given six-month jail sentences for ignoring a court order that gave Platinex the OK to begin drilling on their traditional land.

 

Platinex, whose website says it's on a "quest for a greener planet," wants to dig for platinum on land KI First Nation has a valid claim to. It seems the quest for a greener planet means stepping all over the rights of aboriginal people.

 

The fight has been long and expensive.

 

Last fall, KI spokesman John Cutfeet told The Canadian Press he believed the case was dragging through the courts as part of a tactic used by the company and the Crown to bleed the community financially dry. Eventually, KI could end up bankrupt, and no longer able to fight off the mining exploration.

 

At the time the community had spent about $700,000 on the court battle.

 

The community isn't against economic development. They just want a say in what happens to the land. Their rights to the resources were never signed away with a treaty, and they want to be part of the success, too.

 

The KI Six have gained support, both nationally and locally.

 

Assembly of First Nations National Chief Phil Fontaine visited the KI Six over the Easter weekend. He also spoke with Ontario's Aboriginal Affairs Minister Michael Bryant. But so far nobody has budged.

 

Roseau River First Nation Chief Terrance Nelson has also pledged support to the KI Six, saying he's going to find out who owns shares in the publicly owned company and call on them to criticize the jailing of the aboriginal leaders.

 

Jailing the KI Six is outrageous, but we've got to look at the root cause of this problem. These people aren't criminals; they're trying to uphold their rights as First Nations people.

 

The problem is governments are stalling when it comes to settling Canada's longstanding debts to aboriginal people.

 

And the KI Six aren't the only prisoners. All First Nations are prisoners of poverty because we fail to allow their communities to prosper by not recognizing their rights to their own resources.

 

Dudley George — an Anishinabe activist — paid the ultimate price for standing up for his rights. He was shot and killed in 1995 while trying to protect the territory of his people from Stony Point and Kettle Point First Nation.

 

Ontario's Ipperwash Inquiry into George's death concluded last May, with many recommendations that have not yet been put in place. I thought I was watching history in the making when I watched the televised speeches of George's brother and the presiding Judge Linden, but it seems we've all gone back to sleep again.

 

Do the people of Stony Point and Kettle Point have their land back? Has Caledonia been settled yet?

 

Canada has got to create a far speedier system to settle land claims, instead of the current system that means a decades-long wait, as well as a waste of money. Then these conflicts and frustrations won't continue to happen.

 

Canada has a legal duty to consult with First Nations. The ignorance has to stop. We've got to stop looking the other way, while progress continues to leave aboriginal people in the shadows.

 

colleen.simard@gmail.com